Matt and Tim

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 5

It was after classes two weeks later. Matt and Tim had been busy with schoolwork. They hadn't seen much of each other over the days. Tim had a different English teacher than Matt. She hadn't assigned any reports to her class, much to his relief. Tim had left with his mother. He now had an appointment with a new orthodontist and was scheduled for a checkup and cleaning.

Matt approached the door of the Science Club. He felt a bit nervous as he pulled on the handle of the door. The only relief he felt was his interest in science. He knew there would be something in common with the students inside.

"I don't feel......well real nervous........I just hope nobody stares at me. I'm sure I'll be able to talk. There'll be something interesting I can at least ask questions about. Oh shit! I'm such a lost cause!"

As soon as he'd stepped inside, it seemed as though every head turned his way. It hadn't been a stare. Students worked in groups, but their smiling faces seemed to greet him. Two boys and a girl rushed up to him.

The girl wore a white lab coat to her knees. Her pixy haircut seemed to make her look young, yet her large oval-shaped wire glasses added three years back on.

"Wow!......She looks like she could be a....a scientist!........You're in the science room ya dork!....What the hell did you expect?....A black negligee?!"

She held her clasped hands under her chin as she smiled.

"...Please....Please! Tell us you're in here to get a report for your English class!"

"...Ummm....Yeah!"

She screamed as she jumped in place. The two boys smiled and high-fived each other.

"Oh! Thank God!....Thank God!...

"So far we're the only club that hasn't had someone here to write a report on!......I guess the students aren't all that interested in all us science geeks!...

"Oh! Hey!....I'm Jennifer......Jenny to everyone!"

"I'm Matthew....Well, Matt!"

"Great!......Well, I'm sort of the monitor here while Mr. Sorenson is out. I'm the only senior in here. He had to run out for some sort of electronic part or something.

"Hey, let me show you around!"

She bubbled with enthusiasm as she showed Matt the equipment around the room. He saw most everything was in good condition, yet very dated. There were microscopes, telescopes, lenses and empty tripods. Counter tops held voltmeters and oscilloscopes. Temporary projects were simply attached to batteries with simple alligator clips. He saw tiny motors turning and lights flashing.

Jenny stepped up to a counter which was six feet in length. It had a rectangular box at one end. An opening seemed to be aimed at a lens. After this was what Matt knew to be a solar cell, mounted on a cardboard support. It's leads disappeared under the plywood sheet on which the project was mounted. Next came a tiny, and he knew, obsolete computer monitor.

"This is my very own laser transmitter!" she squealed.

Matt noticed when she became excited, she became more a schoolgirl than a scientist!

"Let me show you how it works!"

Matt suddenly sobered from his initial surprise of everything. He quickly opened his notebook. This seemed to make Jenny's eyes grow larger.

She tapped at a keyboard as she pointed to the monitor several feet away.

"H-E-L-L-O!" printed out.

"Whoa! NEAT!" Matt couldn't hold back.

"Oh! I'm just soooo excited about this!......It's just one of those little laser pens that I modified, but......It works!....It works!...

"Oh excuse me! I just get excited over all this stuff! The GEEK starts coming out!"

"NO!....NO!" Matt heard himself yell, "I'm IMPRESSED!....REALLY!"

"Let me show you how this works! This is my project for the science fair next week!"

She continued on in layman's terms, explaining its operation. She pointed to a diagram neatly drawn in felt marker. It was on a poster board above the project. She was happy to see Matt draw a quick rough sketch of it in his notebook. He wrote in a rapid scrawl.

"...Okay enough about my project!........Let me show you what the others have here."

She walked across to a counter top which ran the entire length of the room beside the windows. She explained each one along with the students. Matt saw they were typical science projects. They dealt with recycling plastics and glass, solar cells, windmills and green energy.

Matt felt himself become more comfortable as the minutes passed. He found he didn't need to talk much. A simple question from him and students ran on about their projects. It became obvious to him these students were considerably more informed in the sciences than the average student in the classrooms.

"These kids are great! They really know their stuff. I don't know why people gotta make fun of them. Wow!......Maybe I can get rid of some of this shyness of mine and really become a part of this! I'd love it! Wow! All the neat stuff I could build! This wouldn't be schoolwork! This would be fun! Maybe next year!........Yeah! I'll talk to Mr. Sorenson about it!........He's cool!........Well, he may be a bit of that 'Absentminded Professor'.....Well, maybe a lot!..........He's really....umm......way out there! But he's a good teacher! He knows how to make science interesting! Oh, boy!......I'd better really start hittin' the math books! Yeah, all these kids are cool. Why are they called GEEKS?!......Yeah, why am I called a FAG?!"

Jenny had followed him to the door, running on with even more zest. Three times he'd reached the door, only to have her draw at his arm.

"Oh!....Oh!....There's just one more thing I have to show you!"

Again he'd reached the door.

"Oh! Matt! I wish you all the luck on your paper! We hardly ever get anyone in here to do a report on us! Wouldn't it be nice if we could finally get our club in the school newspaper?!"

"...Paper?" Matt asked blankly.

"Well YES!........I mean they always report on the science fair, but never our club here!"

She saw his blank stare.

"The English teachers?" she continued, "They select the top three reports you kids write! They put them in the school paper!"

Matt could nearly hear a 'whistling bomb' falling through the air and dropping into the pit of his stomach with an explosion. (Gulp!)

"I....umm....didn't know that!"

She shook his shoulders.

"Well YES!........And if you have any questions, stop by the lab here. We'll be here every night 'til the science fair. We'll answer your questions!......And if we can't, we'll certainly find someone who can!...

"Oh!" she continued, drawing out a slip of paper from the large pocket of her lab coat, "This is my e-add......Contact me about any project in here. Any questions! I can get you the other students e-adds or science clubs....Anything!"

Matt walked down the empty hall toward his locker. His footsteps literally echoed down the corridor. He'd been a shy loner all his life. He knew how it felt to be alone. It had truly never bothered him. He felt comfortable with himself. He didn't have to talk and say something to make a fool of himself. He didn't have to worry about tripping, knocking something over or any of a number of other accidents. Yet for some reason this evening, he'd never felt more alone!

"I really wanna be a part of that group next year! I almost feel like I already am! They were so nice to me in there. And they're interested in science! I've always been interested in science. I think I could do it! I really do!...

"If I don't get this report in the school paper......it'll feel like I let them all down. I've got really good grades in English........book reports, news items....even some of my short stories I've written. Mr. Heath is always encouraging me. Well, he sure admits my 'public speaking' needs lots of work, but he really likes my written stuff.

"Oh, am I gonna try my best at this!........I gotta! I just gotta support the science team and show the whole school they're not GEEKS! They're the ones who are gonna be the 'rocket scientists' of tomorrow. Some of them may even become famous! Wow! Someone famous from our little school here!

"...And....and maybe I'll join the GSA next year too! I could give them reports too! I love doin' research and then reporting on it. I've gotta get rid of this shy....Bambi attitude I've got! I've gotta get out there and start asserting myself!...

"...And....and HELL IS GONNA FREEZE OVER AT MIDNIGHT TONIGHT!"

He reached his locker and dialed in his combination. The door opened with an incredibly loud clank. He glanced each way down the empty hallway.

"Shit!......I hate it when these halls are so packed....but I think it's worse when they're empty!..."

He sorted out the textbooks he'd need for the night and placed them in his pack. He pressed his notebook into his stomach.

"....Ohhhhh.........All of a sudden I don't feel so good......I think I'm gonna be sick!"

Over the next two weeks, Matt put everything into his schoolwork. He studied his math, did research on the Net. He wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Many sheets of paper would end up in the wastebasket nearby.

"Why am I doing this?! I should be using a word processor! The computer is so much easier!"

His mother actually became suspicious of his sudden interest in homework. He'd be at his computer into the early morning hours. She'd frequently glance into his room.

He's certainly more ditsy than ever! I wonder if there's a girl in the equation. I wonder if he's in love!"

His door was never closed. He never seemed to be hiding anything. The monitor always displayed math quizzes or science sites. She'd noticed he and Tim hadn't visited each other much. He always had some school library book he was taking notes from.

"Wow!....It's midnight again!......Mom catches me still up an' she's gonna have a shit fit!...

"...Humm......I'd better e-mail Timmy again. I feel so bad about not seeing him! But this paper is due on Monday!......They're gonna decide over the week who's is best!"

Tim:

Sure miss you. Not joking here. I've just got to get this paper done! You said you'd kind of read it tomorrow and put in suggestions. I know you read a lot! I really think it will help me. See you in the AM.

Can't wait for our little 'camping trip' on our first day of summer vacation! Yeah, in the 'wilds' of your backyard!.........Well, at least we'll be safe from lions 'n' tigers 'n' bears!......OH, MY! (hee,hee)

Really Tim.......miss you something awful. I'll make up for it this summer! We'll do everything together!........Later!

Matt

("Send")......(click!)

"...Mmmm......Miss you something awful?........I hope that wasn't too....well, sticky. Too late now!......I can't UN-send it!"

Closing his mail page he dropped his head on his folded arms before the keyboard.

"This summer!......Some time this summer! I'm gonna tell him! I'm going to COME OUT to him! I....I just can't keep going on like this. It's not fair to him. It's not fair to myself. I really think........I think I'm fallin' in LOVE with him! Ohmigod! There! I said it!......Well, only to myself......I admitted it! I think I've known all along.

"I wonder if I should send him another e-mail. And....and make it a bit more....sticky!"

He rolled his head over his arms.

"No!........Not right now. I'm still sorta....feeling him out.......sorta....so-to-speak. Oh shit! Even if he's as straight as an arrow!....I gotta tell him! He'll probably tell me to go fuck myself!.......NO! Not Timmy! He'd never say that to anyone! I know that! But......things will be different between us after that!........He'll keep lookin' at me!....And wondering........He'll wonder if I'm looking at him........He'll wonder if I'm thinking about kissing him.....or....or touchin' him!......Oh that'll be sooo awkward! I don't think we'll be able to stay friends. OH SHIT!........Oh that really fuckin' HURTS!........I don't like to even think about it! Oh, it's such a real pain!......It goes right down into my gut!......I'm telling him! This summer! I just can't fucking go on like this!...

"I'm fifteen! What do I know about love? I meet a cute, shy, little boy.....an'......a couple months later.......I'm IN LOVE with him?!.........That's not me!......That's not me at all! But I'm so hopelessly, schoolgirl silly in love with him!

"Oh shit!........I gotta start thinking about something else here......Jenny! I sent her an e-mail asking her something about her laser. I don't even remember what it was. I never checked to see if there was an 'e' there from her!"

He quickly signed back into his account. At the very top was an 'e' from Tim.

Matty!...

Hey, don't feel bad, Bud. Same here! Schoolwork! Awful nervous about finals. New kid? New school? New classes? Understand?

Sure will check out your paper! Honored! Love to read. My problem isn't getting ideas off from paper......It's getting ideas (in my head) back onto paper. BAD at English comp! Something 'shorts out' between my brain and my fingers!

Better believe we'll have an AWESOME summer together! We both have brains and hearts. We'll just have to work on more courage! You're the best thing that ever happened to me, Matty! Think I'm already less shy. You're the greatest!

Miss you too, Babe! Catch you tomorrow AM!

XOXOXOXOXO

Tim

Matt clicked off the e-mail, yet continued to stare at his in-box. He quickly operated his trackball.

"I'm deleting that!........I thought my 'e' was....umm....'sticky'?.......Oh shit!....More signals here again?!

"Umm....Babe?!........Okay....I can do that. That's slang, right? Now the X-O-X-O? What exactly does that mean?........Well, I know what that means but........Does that mean in a kinda friendly way?........or a one-fuck-of-a-lot-friendly way!? Gee! He's so hard to understand at times!

"A couple weeks ago we were hugging! He had his hand on my ass and his crotch against my thigh! And he didn't accidentally 'bump' me with his lips! Those were kisses! Okay, maybe not real good ones........but they were kisses! I know that! Ohhh, whenever his lips touch me, that spot just sorta gets all 'sparkly' and 'tingly' for minutes after! I can feel the moisture evaporating! ......That Timmy Flavor evaporating away. What a waste! I wanna taste Timmy Flavor! I wanna taste it on my lips!......I wanna taste it on my tongue!...

"Oh shit! Oh shit! Junior's waking up again!"

He pulled on one leg of his jeans.

"Dammit tew hell!........When are they gonna invent some kinda pill for this?!

"...Now where was I?........Yeah! Timmy Flavor!...

"Oh!......A lot of good that GSA meeting did for me! There wasn't anything about signals!........There wasn't really anything at all! Nothing that could help me! I understand some gays wear a special bracelet....or ring....or some kind of little pin on their shirts. Maybe I should research that on the Net!........I just hate doin' that! I click on links and keep coming up with all those raw gay porn sites! I hate that shit!........Why can't they have a site where there are pictures like that girl drew for the GSA? Those two boys in the pond out in the woods! Oh! I could just feel like I was one of 'em!

"Yeah, Timmy was sooo sweet 'n' cuddly when when we were on that couch. Then....in the morning........I don't know........He just acts like nothing happened! He doesn't give me a clue! He runs on about some movie we watched or some game we played. I just wish it wasn't all this off and on, off and on constantly!...

"WAIT!......Wait a minute here!......'We both have brains and hearts. We'll just have to work on more courage'!........Now he's talking in riddles! Damn! He's so hard to figure out!

"...What else did he say?......I'm the best thing that ever happened to him? Umm.... okay. Now how do I take that?! Is he saying he's just happy we met?......or is it something way deeper than that?........Oh that boy is a fuckin' ENIGMA!

"Oh shit I gotta turn off this computer! Mom's gonna come in here and blow a fuse big enough to put the whole county into a blackout!"

Following school the next day, Tim indeed came over to "proof read" his paper. His eyes scanned the monitor of the computer as Matt got soda and chips. He entered the room.

"...Matt......I umm, don't really know what to say about this..."

"It's bad, huh?"

"No! No!.........It's not bad!"

"It's really bad!"

"No! Not that either!......In fact it's great! Really! In fact it's kinda too good!"

Matt sat on the stool beside him.

"...Ahhhh, DUUUHHAAA?!"

"Hee, hee, hee......Well it's kinda hard to explain. Like I say, I have great comprehension when I read. I can't write! Lots of this makes sense to me but not all of it...

"You........you sound like....like Einstein!....I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean I think this stuff would impress a college instructor!......Really! It's that good! It's that you gotta break this down to high school level science. Lots of kids would never understand this shit!. I mean you don't wanna write like baby talk, but some of these terms....these ideas are just way too out there to understand!...

"Einstein himself said, 'Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler!' Get it? Don't write a paper like it's for a bunch of first graders. Just bring it down to high school level so the average....umm....'kid in the hall' can understand it. You've got some really good shit here! You put lots of thought into this! I can tell you write. You didn't have to tell me about your journal and short stories. I can see you can write great! You've gotta....simplify! That's all...

"Let me scroll back up here and show you what I'm talking about...

"See this part on Jenny's laser? She might have used these terms with you. It's just that kids aren't goin' to understand Jack-shit about it! Instead of using terms like these, just sorta say it in words that explain the terms. People aren't gonna read this with a dictionary in their other hand! They'll just lose interest! Make it simple and interesting!...

"And see this part on that other kid's project....the windmill that generates electricity? You go into armatures and induction and rectifiers! Piss on that! People know a generator makes electricity! Leave it at that!......And down here..."

Matt sat at the public library. It was eight o'clock. Tim had left his house to do his own schoolwork at home. Matt had asked his mother for a ride here. He needed several reference books he knew were here. The Internet wasn't helping him. The sites were either too complex and technical or too elementary. The two extremes which Tim had warned him about. He knew he was correct. Simple and interesting!

He sat at a large table directly beside a microfiche file. Several thick volumes were in a semi-circle around him for easy reach. He'd read for a moment. He'd sit back and think. Soon he'd write in a rapid, tiny scrawl in his notebook. It was intelligible only to him.

At nine o'clock his mother pulled her car into a parking space in the library's parking lot. She drew her cell from her purse. Opening it, she paused. She snapped it shut.

"No! I'm going in there! I want to see what he's doing....what he's up to.

"He has been just so....so scatterbrained lately! More than usual. He's from one thing to another. He's daydreaming again. I don't think he can focus. And all this schoolwork! Is it really schoolwork? Is he really looking things up in there?....or is he on the computers?! I'll bet he's in one of those chat rooms!......And I'll bet he's online with some GIRL! That's it! Our little boy is....is in love! All the signs are there! He's probably too shy to say anything to us. Awhh! How sweet!......Oh darn! He's growing up so fast. Well, I'm going in there!"

As soon as she had entered, a guilty feeling fell over her. Matt seemed to have had just finished up. He closed books, put away pens and markers and organized his papers. He looked up with a smile.

"Wow, Mom. Perfect timing. I just finished. Have I got a sh...super amount of info!"

"I almost said SHITLOAD!"

"Well, did you find everything you needed?"

"Yup!........Just let me put these books back."

The librarian left the desk to help a student. Mrs. Meadows quickly stepped up. She quickly scanned the computer roster upside down. Matt's name wasn't on it.

"Oh dear....Oh dear........Why do I get such a funny feeling over all of this? All this schoolwork! I wonder if him and Tim are in a friendly competition over grades. That sure wouldn't hurt anything. I thought with him having a friend....finally....would really help him out. I actually think he's getting more ditsy! He's daydreaming more. When I call him out of it....he always seems to have something to say about Tim!"

The following Friday Matt quickly made his way toward the cafeteria. He noticed Tim making his way toward him. It was something he'd never done before. He'd always wait in the cafeteria for Matt. He was wildly waving a paper in his hands.

"Matty!....Matty!......You got your report in the school paper! You were one of the top three!....CHECK IT OUT!"

"REALLY?!"

He grabbed at the paper at the same time Tim was paging through it.

"I just came from English! Mr. Heath didn't say a thing to me about it! You better not be shittin' me!"

"No! No!....Look!....Look!....Page three!"

Matt's hands trembled as he scanned the article. It had obviously been edited to fit the two columns each report was allowed.

"Wow! Awesome!" Matt yelled, turning to Tim.

"...And I bet it was your suggestions to simplify! Wow! Mom 'n' Dad are gonna love this!"

The boys entered the cafeteria. Instantly Matt saw a tall girl with a pixy haircut coming toward him. He knew it was Jenny. She was waving a copy of the school paper.

"Matty! Matty! You're our hero!"

She drew him by the hand before a table of science club members. At one end of the table sat a cupcake with a single candle on it. The crowd gave a three "Hip-Hip-Hurray"! Matt could only stand there with his head hanging and cheeks blushing.

"Speech!....Speech!....Speech!"

"Oh no! Ohhhh NO!........You people know I'm no good at talking!"

"Come on," Jenny prompted, "Just a few words..."

"Oh no!"

Matty, please! You got our GEEK club in the paper!"

"...Well how about a few words on oxidation and reduction principles?..."

"Go!....Go!....Go!"

As the table quieted, Matt pointed at the candle.

"THAT........Is an open flame....and it's a FIRE HAZARD!"

The students laughed and joked with him. They shook his shoulders and slapped his back. Soon the short celebration was over. He and Tim found their way to their usual table. Matt hung his head.

"Ohhhhh that was soooo embarrassing!"

"Matt they loved you. You got them recognition!"

"...Well, I know they meant well. It's not that!......It's just that everyone in the whole cafeteria was looking at me!"

"So?..."

"Well, that's just the time I'm gonna trip, or knock something over!........I was afraid to blow that candle out!......I thought for sure I was gonna catch my shirt or hair on fire!"

"Hee, hee, hee."

"Not funny Tim."

It was soon the first day of summer vacation. The boys had done well on their final exams. It was now time to relax. Both families knew well of the great Camping Trip the boys had been planning. Matt pulled into the backyard on his bike with his pack filled with clothes. He was surprised to see Mr. Webster still there.

"Afternoon Mr. Webster."

"Hi Matt........Hey can you give me a hand with this tent?"

"Me 'n' Tim could to that!......I thought you were visiting Mrs. Webster's grandparents in Korea."

"Oh, we are! We are!........It's just we'll be catching a later flight out. It seems Tim's mom forgot he had an appointment today with his orthodontist. And she's not one to leave until she's sure everything's okay!"

"...Umm what do you want me to do?"

"Well now. I've staked all four corners of the tent out. All we gotta do is put this temporary support in there. I was trying to do it myself, but it's kinda hard holding the tent up and trying to get in there with this big metal pole."

Matt helped with crawling within the collapsed tent and putting a large, heavy support into the center of the tent. Mr. Webster held up the canvas as best he could from outside.

"Got it?"

"Yup. But I think it's a little tilted."

"We'll get that," Mr. Webster said, crawling inside.

He drew out each of four supports. They raised up, snapping into position.

"Okay, now we remove this center pole here. That's just for temporary support. The tent will stay up now."

Matt looked around.

"Whoa!....Neeeeeeaaat! This thing is huge!"

"Nice, huh?......And there's no center pole here to get in the way."

"Whoa!......This is gonna be great! Thank you Mr. Webster."

"Well now, you crawl around there and unzip the window flaps. We'll air it out a bit and keep it from getting too hot in here from the sun...

"Now it's the first of June. It's nice out, but I hear from the weather we're still going to have some awful chilly nights yet."

They stepped through the flaps back outside.

"You kids are teenagers now. I really don't think you need a safety lecture, but there are a few things I'd like to say...

"Now see that extension cord on the back steps?......That's for plugging in a light! That's it! That means no microwave, TV, toaster or electric heater."

Matt nodded his head with a smile.

"Yeah, Timmy told me about the 'breath-steamin'-below-seventy-degrees' thing."

"Hee, hee, hee......I shouldn't tease the skinny little shit! He just needs more meat on those bones."

He pointed toward the grill.

"Now I'm sure you kids know how to operate a gas grill. All I ask is that you leave it way over there! It might be easier next to the tent, but if it should tip over or a spark landed on that canvas, wow! I mean the tent is treated with a flame-retardant, but let's not push it."

He sat on the back steps as he glanced around.

"Yup!......Ayumi and I are doin' very well in life. We could get the motor home the SUV any kind of trailer we want!"

He looked up at Matt.

"Shit!......That's not camping! That's takin' a motel along with you!..."

He glanced around again.

"Yeah......I see where folks are sending their kids on vacations all over the world! And I mean fifteen....sixteen here!......The girls too. Nope! No cruises for Timmy. No motorcycle! No fancy cars! None of that!........Do I sound mean?........Well, we want Timmy to learn early that you have to work for things in life. We'll take care of all his schooling, but that's it! No lavish gifts!

"Ayumi and I are very well off, but we just aren't into that lavish lifestyle. No country club! No yacht club! No world tours. We're doin' very good but we aren't gonna climb that social ladder. People knock themselves out all their lives for what?......To be the richest people in the graveyard?! None of that for us!"

Matt listened closely. He had no idea if this had been by accident or design. Mr. Webster seemed to talk, but Matt couldn't understand the direction.

"Nah! None if that for us! In fact it was this little patio that sold this house to me. I can open up a cheap plastic pool chair and just lay back and relax! The hell with those people out there climbing the ladder!....gettin' the strokes!....heart attacks! You gotta kick back and relax! Or as you kids say........just hangout!"

He stood and looked around again. He pointed at the lampposts along the cobbled walks and bricked terrace.

"...These aren't gas lights. They're electric. They're made to look like those old fashioned gas lights from years ago. It's a bit of yesterday. Back when things were so much simpler. They come on by timer at dusk and off again at dawn......Yup, I like our little place here. Life can be good!"

He returned to the steps and sat again.

"...Say, Matty......What's with the little leather pouch on you belt there?"

"Oh! That's my new digital camera," he replied reaching for it, "I did so good in school this year, Mom 'n' Dad wanted to get me something. I told 'em I didn't need something this fancy, but they got it anyway!"

He put it to his eye and sighted across the yard.

"You push this little lever here....'n' things just keep gettin' closer, 'n' closer, 'n' closer. And it's got full automatic exposure! Focus, shutter speed, everything!"

He continued to run on for three minutes, explaining all the settings and features.

"And then!" he continued, as he set the camera on the steps, "You push this button here."

He ran out a distance from the camera.

"...You got thirty seconds to get over here. That little LED will flash five times. Then, five seconds later it takes your picture!"

He bent at his waist, his arms around his stomach, trying to hold in his excitement.

"...You can get in your own picture!......Isn't that just awesome?!"

He ran back to the camera.

"...Then you plug a cable into this little hole and transfer like thousands of pictures to your computer! You can edit 'em! You can put in funny captions 'n' everything!"

Mr. Webster smiled.

"...I think that's the first time I've ever heard you string more than ten words together! I haven't seen kids that excited over a new car in the driveway!......See what I'm sayin' here?"

Matt nodded his head with a shy smile.

"...Matt........I've noticed when you get excited about something......When you focus on something. You don't seem to be the least shy! And the words just come pouring out!"

"...Well, yeah, I guess you're right. I kinda felt that way when I went into the science lab. I got excited over all the stuff in there! I love science!........It's just I don't think I got a chance of getting into the science club for shit!"

"Oop's!....Did I just say that?!"

"I mean you need math! And lots of it! I've decided I want it sooo bad, I just kinda ache inside!........Timmy said he'd help me with more math over the summer..."

He stood with a serious expression, looking at Mr. Webster. He held his hands out.

"...Well?........You can start laughing now!......Like kids are gonna study math on summer vacation, right?"

"...No!....No. I'm not gonna laugh...

"Funny thing you should mention math.........Ummm........You math teacher called us a couple weeks ago..."

"Mrs. Jenkins called YOU?!"

"She sure did!........And she said you claimed that Timmy tutored you. She said she's never seen such an improvement in math skills as you demonstrated in....in days! She was quite impressed with the both of you!......She was telling us to encourage Tim into being a math tutor next year...

"Timmy is so shy it's almost a phobia with him. We tried to talk to him about it. He just doesn't want a thing to do about it! Now we're very proud of the skills he may have in math, but tutoring isn't really the issue here. It's the social interaction. We keep telling him it's important in life. You have to deal with people on a constant basis. He has to polish his social skills if he wants to get anywhere in life.

"...Now I was thinking if maybe you could talk to him and..."

Matt's reply surprised him.

"Ohhhh, no, no!........I already tried that with him. There ain't no way he's gonna do that!"

He made his way to a brick planter full of flowers. He sat on the edge.

"...Mr. Webster, that would be the best thing for any student there! Timmy really knows his stuff when it comes to math. And he just has this knack to get ideas across to someone. I think it would be the best thing for everyone. I even said I'd go to Mrs. Jenkin's office with him!........He said he'd get so nervous he'd probably end throwing up in her wastebasket!"

Mr. Webster nodded his head seriously.

"...Well Matt........You don't have to get on his case about it. Just try to mention it to him from time to time...

"Now if you two could work together. Sort of like tutor a single student. You'd be there with him and he may not feel so self-conscious about it."

"Well, now that might work..."

"Okay, well just try your best. We've gotta get him outta that shell!"

Several hours later the Webster's had left for the airport. Tim had seemed a bit pale as he'd stepped from his mother's car.

"You okay Tim?" Matt asked.

He weakly nodded his head.

"...Just a little bit sore. I had to have my braces tightened today."

They began to load the tent with sleeping bags, snacks and even Tim's reading lamp.

Tim's grandmother constantly followed them back and forth through the house.

"...And don't have any fire in there!"

"No Gram......We're using my desk lamp."

"...And....and you be sure to leave a couple flaps open! I don't want you suffocating in there!"

"...Gram!......I keep tellin' you....You can't suffocate in a tent! You're so worried about that!"

"...And I'm leaving the porch light on tonight! If either one of you two needed the bathroom, why you could trip up the stairs and break a leg!"

"...Gram, the yard lights will come on at dark. We aren't gonna trip."

"...And....and you take these jackets here. It's going to get cold tonight! We don't need either one of you getting sick!"

"...Okay!....Okay!..."

"...And now you be careful out there around that grill. We don't need to be calling the fire department over here..."

"...Yes, Gram..."

"...And....and you both take your cell phones out there with you! I'll have mine right here on the kitchen table."

"...Gramma!......We're going out into the backyard!......We're not camping out in the Grand Canyon!"

"...Well, you know me. I worry!...

"...You....you keep one of those windows open a bit. There's mosquito netting on it so you don't have to worry about that!"

"...Gram! You can't suffocate in a tent! There's all kinds of gaps in it!"

Matt busied himself with uncoiling the extension cord as Tim started the grill.

"Aaaaaaaahhhh!" Matt had screamed.

Tim spun around in time to see Matt's arm extended, the bright orange extension cord was sailing through the air.

"You okay Matty?"

"I just got the FUCKIN' SHIT ZAPPED OUTTA ME!"

He quickly fell to his knees as he covered his mouth, looking toward the house.

Tim ran quickly to the outlet on the side of the house and unplugged the extension.

They carefully studied the opposite end. The bright orange plastic insulation had a crack in it. Within they clearly saw the bare copper wire. Tim tossed it down.

"Well so much for that! We'll just have to use my battery lantern."

Matt rubbed his shoulder and shook his arm.

"...Your dad got anything else around that needs safety testing?....Maybe like a drill or a SAW?! SHIT! I've never had a shock like that in my life!"

Tim couldn't resist a chuckle.

"...Yeah, I know......The dork strikes again! I'm really surprised I'm sill alive today!"

Soon they ate hamburgers and drank chocolate milk. The sun was setting and a chill was settling in the air. They sat at a tiny patio table in cushioned wrought-iron chairs. The yard lights had come on. Although electric, the lamps within the silk mantles truly appeared realistic. The scene was more a late 19th century Paris sidewalk cafe.

Matt gazed over at Tim in the dim light.

"...Timmy........I've known you a bit now. I can tell!......You're in pain, aren't you?"

Tim nodded his head.

"Yeah......It didn't feel so bad leavin' the orthodontist today. It was just sort of a dull soreness......It's gettin' worse."

"You wanna make this for some other day?..."

"No!....No!....Matty we've been planning this for weeks! We're gonna do this! I got some pain meds here if it gets really bad..."

He drew a small, brown plastic bottle out. At the bottom were five capsules. He placed them on the table. Matt looked at them.

"Five stinkin' pills?!"

"They're awful strong, Matt. I don't even like to take 'em. Just one will knock me out for hours!"

They soon entered the tent. Tim switched on a camping lantern with fluorescent tubes.

"This will brighten up after the tubes warm up some," Tim said, placing it on top of an ice cooler.

"How about a root beer?"

Tim shook his head.

"...You can have one. I'm already freezin' my ass off."

"Shit Timmy! I know you're from California. And it is a bit chilly in here. But it's not freezin'!"

"...I....I don't feel too good."

He pulled a blanket around himself. Matt saw his trembling hands gather it together. Indeed, even his jaw was trembling.

"Can I get you something, Timmy?......How about I go in the house and nuke you a hot chocolate!"

He shook his head.

"...No......I don't think it'll stay down. I shouldn't have eaten that hamburger........Hand me that bag of peppermint candies there."

He opened the bag, reached in and drew out a piece of hard candy. Unwrapping it, he put it in his mouth. It bulged in his cheek. He began a rocking motion.

"...Oh shit....Oh shit....I don't feel so good."

Matt sat beside him. He wasn't even aware he began stroking his thigh.

"...Come on Tim......You'll feel better in a day or two. Let's just call it a night......I hate to see you sick an' in pain like this!"

""NO!....NO!......We planned this week out here for so long! We're goin' through with this. I....I just need a little time here to kinda calm down...

"Let's talk!........Tomorrow you can show me that little lake where you swim........ And....and the river!........You can show me the park. I've been between my house and the school. I don't know my way around here. We can go to the mall and hangout."

"Well, now our mall is called a shopping center! It's got a few stores and restaurants. There's no arcade!....There's no movie theater! And the only kids you see there are bein' pulled in by their moms who are getting them clothes or shoes! Very UNcool!...

"And the park?........Well, when I say the park I mean the woods out there. It's got a kinda nice little nature trail around it. A stream passes through it. In the middle there's this little pond. Ohhhh, it's so peaceful out there. I really like it...

"Now when other people say the park, they mean the little kid's swings 'n' slides. Again, very UNcool! It's soooo uncool, kids don't wanna be seen there with their younger brothers and sisters!..."

Matt noticed Tim's pale face and trembling jaw. He took his hand from his thigh and placed it around his back.

"...Now the lake?!......Well as far as the school kids are concerned, it doesn't even exist! It's not that it's cool or not. It's just never even mentioned. We'll have to take our bikes out there. It's like five miles out! And we sure won't be doin' any swimmin' 'til July! The water's warm, but the slightest breeze 'n' you're freezin' yer ass off!....Especially bein' all wet!...

"Yup, I really like the lake. I've spent hours out there. Like I say, I'll take a nap on that big flat rock out there. It's soooo warm from the sun. And if I can't sleep?......Well, I'll just lay there and think about stuff. I think it's just soooo cool out there."

"Oh shit!....Oh shit!....Matty! I think I'm gonna be sick!"

Tim tossed the blanket from his shoulders. He ducked out through the flaps of the tent. Matt followed. Tim was on his hands and knees. He was gagging. Matt saw a brown stream of liquid shoot from his mouth. All he could think of doing was rubbing his back.

"Oh! (cough, gag)......Oh shit!......Oh fuck me!....This is so embarrassing!"

Matt got to his knees beside him and stroked his sides with both hands.

"Timmy!......This is Matt here!......It ain't like you're on stage in the auditorium with the whole school watchin'!"

"...Yeah!......Oh shit!......I puked all down my sleeve!......Oh ick!"

He slowly got to his feet as he pulled his shirt over his head. He tossed it beside the tent.

"Oh ick! I didn't even want to take that off in the tent!"

"Feelin' better now?"

"Oh yeah!......Seriously Matty......Once it comes up, I'm okay again. Except for my mouth!......It hurts! It really hurts, Matty..."

They reentered the tent. They both squinted in the light of the lamp.

"Oh shit!......Gimme those mints again. This taste in my mouth. Ick!"

Matt squatted down before him.

"Shit Timmy! I hate to see you like this!......I feel so....so helpless!"

"I'll be okay, really! It's just my mouth now. Oh! I'm gettin' a headache from it!"

Matt handed him the bottle with the five capsules in it.

"Take one of these, okay?......So what if they knock you out. You can't enjoy yourself like this. Let's just go to sleep for the night. You'll feel better tomorrow. We don't have to set any clock! No school!....And we sure don't have a plane to catch!"

Tim nodded as he opened the bottle. He swallowed a capsule with a sip of stale soda. He shivered and reached for the blanket again. Matt yanked it away.

"No!......Enough talking and trying to act like you're okay. We're goin' to sleep!...

"Now get in your sleepin' bag here. I'll get in with you. Yours is bigger. Just sleep on the outside here with the zipper....in case you gotta run out again......I'll get you warm again."

Neither Matt nor Tim had noticed his sudden "take charge" attitude. Matt switched off the lamp and the tent fell into blackness.

Both boys slid into the oversized bag. Tim lie on his back as Matt lie half on top of him. He placed his hand on his shoulder while resting his chin on the other. He felt Tim's cold hands grip him on his waist, under his t-shirt.

"Oh wow!....Matty, you're hot!......Oh gee, this is nice..."

They both squirmed for a moment, getting comfortable.

"Yeah. Yeah......This is nice. I'm feelin' warmer already...

"Yeah......I gotta see this lake of yours. It sounds so beautiful."

They talked for several minutes about the places Matt was going to take him. Soon Tim became drowsy and found it difficult to focus.

"...I'd like to see that river too. We can go out there and..........Oh shit! I forgot what I was gonna say, hee,hee..."

Matt only smiled as he drew his mouth to Tim's ear.

"Shhhhh, go to sleep. Your pill's kickin' in. You're hurtin' and tired..."

"Yeah, yeah sleep."

Matt felt Tim's arms run up under his shirt and nearly encircle his chest.

"Oh this is sooooo nice......You're soooo warm."

They lie in silence. After several minutes had passed, Tim's arms began to go limp around Matt.

"We were both looking forward to this night for weeks!......Awh! It sure isn't Tim's fault. Oh how I hate to see him in pain. I wish I could do something about it. Wow. I could just tell he was hurtin' bad. Funny how you notice those things when you get to know someone quite well. I think he was tryin' to hide it from me. I could see it all over his face! He wasn't foolin' me. And I keep thinkin' he's doin' all this just for me. It sure feels like it. He can't possibly be enjoying this. Not with his pain."

Matt ran his nose over Tim's t-shirt on his shoulder. He pressed against it tightly.

"Oh!......I can still smell that wonderful dryer sheet smell. I was afraid I'd kinda get used to it. If you're around a scent long enough, you sort of get desensitized to it. If that's the right term. You just don't seem to notice it as much.......It just smells so cute!......And his neck!......It's that orange shower gel scent......It's sweet, yet with a bit of tangy citrus smell. Oh even that smells cute! Oh shit!......Everything about Timmy is cute!...

"He's finally warming up. I can feel it. Even his cheek seems to be kinda radiating heat. I sorta can make out his silhouette. My eyes must be adjusting to the dark. Those lights outside are just right.......Oh those lips! I wanna just kiss 'em soooo bad!......Should I try?.......No! Never! He's hurtin'! I'd wake him up for sure. How the fuck would I explain that?!........That warm cheek is just inches from my mouth. I just gotta touch it with my lips. Just sorta, kinda....lightly."

He ran his lips over Tim's cheek lightly. Unconsciously he began to press harder.

"Awh!" Tim sighed.

Matt drew his head back quickly.

"Holy FUCK!......I thought he was ASLEEP!"

"...Awh, Matty......that......that was....sweet!"

He felt Tim's hand pull his head back down to his shoulder.

"Is he awake?........It sounds like a sleepy response. Oh shit! I wonder if he'll remember that in the morning."

He lie still for several minutes, nearly holding his breath. Tim's chest seemed to rise and fall with a deep, regular rhythm.

"I don't think I'd better try that again!......And I was going to kiss his lips?! I hope he doesn't remember that in the morning!..........Ummm....Why am I thinking that? I plan on coming out to him this summer!........Sometime. What's wrong with tomorrow morning?...... Way too soon!........Yeah I'm gonna be saying that in December! Oh shit!"

He subconsciously raised his hand from Tim's shoulder and placed it beside his face.

"I don't want his hand on my head like this. I want him to put it under my shirt again. Against my back! Even if he isn't actually holding me, it still feels good. I'd better just enjoy as much of this as I can........because when I come out to him........this might all end! Oh, how I hate even thinking about that!

"Oh this is soooo nice! It's really warm in this sleeping bag. I've got my head on his shoulder. I've got my lips on his neck. And I can smell dryer sheet and oranges!"

He drew his hand down to Tim's chest and squeezed his ribs gently.

"Tim's dad called him a 'skinny little shit.' Never!.........Okay....thin at the worst. Never skinny!..........I like my term........sleek. And I just love those hips that kinda stick out. They make his waist look even tinier. And I love that flat belly of his. And his cute, round, deep belly button! How I'd like to just stick my tongue into it!...

"Oh shit! Oh shit! Don't think of that stuff. Junior will wake up!.........Hey, Junior hasn't been up all night!........I just thought of that!........Well, it's not really one of those nights, huh?........Poor Timmy's hurtin' here! He was sick! That kind of takes the, well, excitement out of things. Yeah, poor Timmy. Oh gee! I just hate to see him hurtin'!

"I wonder if I should just go to sleep too. It's sure warm and comfortable enough. But then I won't be aware of Tim. It almost seems a waste to sleep....and....and be unconscious! I won't be able to smell all his....cute! I won't be able to feel his chest with my hand....his ribs. I won't feel his neck against my lips. Ohhhhh........I gotta tell him tomorrow!"

Tim stirred in his sleep. He seemed to rub Matt's head with his hand, pulling his face into his neck. He reached down and held his waist with both hands,

"I think he's awake......Well, maybe not all the way....but half awake. Ohhhhh, his hands are soooo warm. I wonder if I should just tell him now......Tomorrow he'll be all talkative about nothing! Well, he won't be talking about us cuddling anyhow. He's going to be....off again! Right now he's on again, tomorrow he'll be off again!........I gotta tell him. Right NOW!..."

"...Tim......Tim?......You awake?......Hey Timmy!"

He lifted his head and shook Tim's shoulders.

"Timmy!....Wake up!......I....I gotta tell you something here......It's important!....Tim?..."

"Oh shit!....He's out!......It's those damn pills!......Oh, I shouldn't say that! I shouldn't call 'em damn pills!......It's probably the only way he got to sleep tonight. Oh, he was just hurtin' so bad......and sick."

He wanted to feel Tim's hands on his back. He tried to lower himself farther down into the bag.

"That's not much better. I'm gonna pull his arms up. So his hands are on my back."

He struggled and shuffled around for a moment. He threw the top of the bag over both their heads.

"There!......Not real good, but better. Yeah his hands are real warm now. Well, he's warm all over. That's better. I'm sure he's feeling better. I sure hope his mouth doesn't hurt tomorrow. Maybe I can take him to the park tomorrow. Get his mind off his braces. Oh yeah! Great idea Matt! He's going to be so enchanted with the park, he'll forget he's in pain!

"Oh! I wish we had a clock in here! I hate not knowing what time it is! Why is that? When I wake up during the night, I gotta check the time. There's no school tomorrow! We have no place to go! So if we sleep 'til noon! What difference does it make?!

"That dryer sheet is even stronger on his chest. I gotta ask his mom what brand that is! Yeah! Sure!......'Ohhh Mrs. Webster! What is that heavenly scented dryer sheet you use? I've simply a mound of laundry to do and you know about that horrible static cling!' Shit! I'd end up sniffin' the whole box and probably get high on it!

"Well, so much for static cling!........I'm pullin' up his shirt here! I wanna feel his bare chest against my face......Yeah......Ooooo, better. Wow. He's warm now. Oh this feels soooo good. Tonight I can't seem to get close enough to him! Ohhhhh those ribs in my hands! I can kinda feel 'em expanding when he breathes. I really should wake him up and tell him. I wanna so bad. Yet........what if he's still hurtin'? What if he can't get back to sleep then? I'd feel awful..........And that's not mentioning any....negative reaction I might get...

"TOMORROW I TELL HIM!........No backin' out Matty! This is it!........Well, I'm not gonna exactly say I love him........but I'm sure gonna tell him I like him. Yeah, so, now how do I go about that? I can see it now. 'Tim, you know I really like you!'......'Well, I like you too, Matt!'......'No......I mean I really......like you....you know?' Even if he doesn't shoot me, that's gonna be very awkward!...

"And what....what if we kiss?!......Oh! Why do I always end up on this 'Kiss Thing'?! I can't help it! The ways I've dreamed that could happen! But when I daydream about it, everything is perfect!...We know just what to do!....We aren't even shy with each other. We don't feel the least bit clumsy about it. And it's perfect every time!......That's not the way it works out in the real world!........I just know I'm gonna be all nervous!.......I'm gonna shift into high gear KLUTZ! And just everything is going to go wrong! I'm not gonna know what to do with my hands! I'll probably trip!......I might do it all wrong and hurt his braces! Oh! To see such a look of pain on his face! I'll try to kiss him and end up hurting him!...

"I gotta calm down here. It can't be all that technical. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to be able to kiss! Young girls do it! I hear that first kiss is really something special for girls...........Well, why shouldn't it be?!......Boys too!......Yeah!......I want it to be special for both of us!......Oh I soooo hope I don't fuck this all up!

"...Let's see here........We'll be standing up, about to go into the house for breakfast. Now do I put my arms around his neck?....or his chest?....or do I just kinda hold his hips? Hey! Maybe one arm around his neck, and the other around his chest. Maybe he'll just kind of take my lead and do the same thing!......Well, that would be for a kinda deep romantic kiss. Maybe that's not right for the first time! Maybe I should just hold his shoulders....or hips. And just give him a sort of light kiss, but kinda long....a few seconds. Yeah sure! I'm gonna see those pink, pouty lips with his silver braces showing and I'm gonna lose all control! I'm gonna just mash my mouth into his!......Oh I can't do that! His lips will get pushed into his braces. That would hurt him!......Maybe it would even cut his lips on the inside! Oh shit! I'm sooooo gonna fuck this up!.........I gotta think of something else here.

"Wow. Junior still isn't awake!......Well, I'm not exactly thinking about romantic, sexy things......In fact I'm getting a little scared here. Oh, I'm gonna be so nervous! Shit! I'm nervous right now! I'm scared right now and it might not even happen! I gotta tell him. I gotta tell him tomorrow. This is it Matt!...... Tomorrow! No cop-outs! No excuses! Be the Lion who got courage from the Wizard! Yeah, I'm layin' here thinking about proper kissing techniques and I should be rehearsing proper coming out techniques! Hee,hee,hee! Gee that just struck me funny. Is coming out a technique?........Well, maybe it's not a technique in itself, but it has its techniques. Why not?..........Now saying 'I like you,' just isn't right somehow. And no matter how I emphasize or pronounce the word 'like,' it just isn't gonna sound right. That's sooooo schoolboy!........And love?....Whoa! No! Now that's a bit too strong. Yet I want it......romantic........Yeah! Okay, that may be a bit too mature for us young boys, but.........I can't think of another word.

"The boys at school. The straight kids with their girlfriends. All I hear is scoring, hittin', banging, boinking....fucking!..........Oh shit, where is the romance today? Those young couples in the sweet stories. It doesn't have to be boy, girl. It can be girl, girl or boy, boy. I'm not even thinking about those castles in the sky fantasies. That stuff for little girls. What's wrong with sitting on two swings in a park and just holding hands? What's wrong with sweet kisses and hugs?......Oh I'm getting way off the subject here.

"Yeah, I want it to sound romantic........but not too schoolboy. I don't want it to sound too much like a crush either. Isn't there something between the two?! 'Tim, I like you.' No, no. I'll say Timmy......That's lots cuter.......'Timmy, I like you.' Ummm....'Timmy, I really like you!'.........Yeah, that sounds lots more serious, yet not too romantic...

"Oh, what will his reaction be?.........Owf! Either way...

"I really don't think I have anything to worry about. We were hugging on the couch! Not a little two second thing. We were sleeping in each others arms!.......In the morning.....I TELL HIM!...

"Oh gee, I gotta get some sleep here. It's so warm and comfortable in this sleeping bag. I covered our heads. Our breathing is keeping moisture in here. Oh, this is such a comfortable, lazy feeling..."

Matt woke to find Tim had placed his arms around his neck. He'd rose up in the bag and had his head on Tim's shoulder again.

"Oh! Oh! I just love the way Tim's holding me right now. He's got his lips on my cheek! Oh, they're so warm 'n' moist!...

"Oh, the sun isn't up yet. Good. We can lay here and just enjoy this. I wanna know what time it is again! Why didn't I bring my cell?........ He,he,ha,ha......Beep! 'Hi Tim! What's goin' on?' Just beautiful!.........Beep! 'Hi Mom!........Oh Tim and I are just laying here in his sleeping bag. We're just huggin' each other while he's got his lips on my cheek!'

"Oh boy!........Now that's not so funny! That's something I never even thought about! Oh gee! And I thought coming out to Tim was going to be hard. I honestly never thought about that!........Do I tell them?!........I think John got it right at the GSA meeting. Just keep it under wraps until you're independent. It's a shame really. I wonder if I should join up with the GSA next year........How do you join? I don't think there are any records of members or anything like that. Well, not in this small school. Maybe I could just keep going to meetings every week. How would I explain why I'm always late on Thursdays? And John want's more adults in it? He wants parents to come in? I....ummm....don't think so!...

"I wonder if Tim would come along........Same thing there! He'd always be late on Thursdays. And what if someone recognized me? And told my parents!........Yeah! There may be about twenty kids in the whole school who'd know me! I don't think there'd be much of a chance of that happening!........Why do I always lay around and think of bad stuff happening?........Because that's what usually happens! Well, maybe not quite so bad, but it is usually bad!

"I gotta get back to sleep here. I'm just not with it enough to be thinking straight."

Matt thought he'd slept only minutes when he felt a tugging on his shoulders. His head was still down on Tim's shoulder.

"...Matty!......Matty!......You awake?..."

"...Ummm....I....I dunno!"

"Hee, hee, hee........You don't know if you're awake?"

"...Well, ummm....yeah....I guess..."

"Matty! My braces don't hurt today!"

"Oh good!"

"No! Really!......Oh! I thought I was in for another week of pure hell! I feel great!"

Matt raised his head in the dim light. Tim's thumbs were under his chin. His fingertips were pressing in on his cheeks along the area his braces.

"Wow! This is great! Oh shit, for awhile there, I thought our whole week was gonna be ruined! And I'm....I'm hungry again! Let's get some snacks out!"

"...Timmy!......It's still dark out! What time is it?"

"I don't know......Early! I can see the tent getting a bit lighter, but I heard some awful loud thunder. I think it's fixin' to really storm."

"Okay....Okay," Matt replied, "Lemme get the lamp here. I can't see shit!"

Matt found he couldn't quite reach the lamp. He straddled Tim's thighs, kneeling on either side of them. He just barely could reach the switch. The fluorescent tubes lit with a dim glow, yet both boys squinted. Matt was about to crawl from the bag when he looked down at Tim's face. He indeed looked rested. His face was bright and color had returned to it. His smile was slight but original. Matt knew he was telling the truth.

"Oh he....he looks so cute! That smile! It's just so......sweet! Okay Matt! This is it! NO MORE FUCKIN' EXCUSES!......Start talkin'!"

It was here they saw a brilliant flash of lightning against the tent. A sudden wind came up, blowing the tent first inward, then outward. The sudden hiss of rain struck the tent as though a valve had been opened.

He sighed, took another deep breath and sighed again. He still straddled Tim's thighs.

"Ummm......Before we even do anything today. I gotta talk. This has been buggin' me for a long time now. I....ahhhh....I got something to say....and I'm like scared shitless!..."

Another flash lit the tent. Earsplitting thunder crashed. They'd felt it through the ground.

Looking down, he noticed Tim's t-shirt was still pulled up slightly. He reached for the bottom and pulled it down, straightening it. It was still chilly and damp in the tent.

"...I ahhh........Last night was kinda nice. I mean once we got warm in the bag here. I was laying here thinking about......stuff!......I tried to wake you up......But I think that pill kinda knocked you out. Then I started thinking that maybe I shouldn't. I didn't want you to wake up and then not get back sleep again. And I didn't want you laying here with your braces hurtin' again....and...

"...Well I was thinkin'........that I really had to tell you something. And....and I'm not so sure you're gonna....ummm....like it."

Thunder crashed again, as though further emphasizing Matt's 'like it.' The tent ballooned outward and again snapped inward. The metal frame rattled.

He settled back on his heels, now straddling Tim's hips. Tim's tiny smile continued. His huge black eyes seemed to dart over Matt's face. They were questioning.

"...I was thinking about something......that I really gotta tell you!....And...

"Oh shit!......This is really, really hard for me. Just gimme a minute here."

He took two deep breaths. His face became pale.

"You okay, Matty?" Tim asked, concerned.

"...Ummm....Yeah....No....I mean I don't know! Ummm....We're like....ummm friends, right?"

"Well sure! I sure hope so!"

"Yeah, you're my friend......And I'm your friend and it's kinda been like that since the day we met at our lockers......I mean even if we didn't know that at the time! And when I first saw you....in the hall there.......Oh shit! I'm having such a hard time with this! I'm trying here! I just kinda got to find the words!"

He noticed Tim's smile becoming larger. His eyes didn't seem to have that searching look to them any longer. He could almost see an understanding in them. He suddenly felt his hands on his thighs. They were stroking up and down. Heat came from the palms, through his jeans.

"Holy fuckin' shit!........Tim's rubbin' my thighs! And that SMILE!......That huge, silver smile!......MI SONRISA DE PLATA! Oh, that huge, gorgeous smile just lights up his whole FACE!........And those pink, pouty lips! I think they're putting me into some kind of trance here. I can't stop looking at 'em!"

There was a series of several flashes of lightning for all of six seconds. Instantly there was a crackling of thunder that lowered into a rumble which again was felt through the ground.

Matt leaned forward and placed his palms on either side of Tim's head.

"Those lips!......They're like electromagnets! And they're on full power! I just gotta kiss 'em!......I just gotta kiss 'em!......Just once!......Even if it's only once!"

Leaning forward, he allowed his face to slowly near Tim's. He tried to read his face. His black eyes seemed to sparkle with some kind of anticipation. His smile remained. Matt suddenly felt strangely comfortable.

"Is this that knowing look?......Are we ready here? Is he gonna like this? Is he gonna push me away? I don't care!......I just gotta touch those lips with my own!......Careful. Easy. Don't hurt his braces. Lightly!....Don't mash!....Gently. He's not turning his head away."

The distance between their faces decreased with each moment. Matt's lips were so close to Tim's, he could feel their heat. Soon they finally, gently touched.

"Holy fuckin' shit!....I'm in heaven here!"

Tim's arms suddenly left Matt's thighs. They flew around his back. Matt felt as though he'd suddenly sprung a trap. The arms felt as though they were giant jaws, snapping shut, holding his body in place. Their chests pressed together. Matt stretched out his legs.

"Tim's holding me!......He didn't push me away! And he's sorta opening his mouth more!......I just gotta lick those braces a little!......Ohhh! I can feel those little 'pads' on the tip of my tongue!......It feels just like I always thought it would! Well, there's really no, taste to 'em, but what a sensation! I really thought they'd have some kind of metallic taste on the tip of my tongue. Oh shit! Junior woke up in ten seconds!......I'm hard as a rock! Tim's gonna feel me against him!........Oh! He's only hugging me with one arm! His other hand is on my ass! He's squeezin' it!......He's pulling me down tighter against himself. It's like he wants to feel my stiffy up against him. Oh shit! I don't care anymore! Let 'im feel it! I can't hide it anymore!...

"Easy Matt!......No mashing!......Gentle here! Don't do anything to hurt this precious little angel! Oh my God!....I hope I don't pass out here! I just want this to last forever! I've got to hold his head in my hands! I want to rub his smooth cheeks with my fingers. Oh the air rushing out of his nose! He's panting through his nose! His lungs are just kinda.... huffing! He's moving his hips. He's trying to press up against my thigh. I'll help him......Oh! Is he hard!....and....and kinda big too! And I can feel his thigh against me. I know he can feel my stiffy against him now. He's kinda lifting his leg and pressing into it! I think he likes to feel me against him! Oh shit! Oh shit!....I'm going crazy here!...

"Wow!....He just STUCK HIS TONGUE IN MY MOUTH!......It's so......wet....and slippery! He must have kissed before! He's too good at it! This is no first kiss for him! I....I don't care! I....I....CAN'T STOP! Oh this is even better than my daydreams! Oh WOW! I can taste cute Timmy in my mouth! I can taste cute Timmy all over my whole body! Oh, he's hard. He's rubbing up against me!......I can't rub!......I'll....I'll let loose! Oh! How embarrassing will that be?! Oh! I gotta stop! I don't wanna! I gotta! I just can't breathe any more!"

Matt drew away with a rather loud smack. His head fell beside Tim's. Both lie still, literally panting.

"...Oh wow!....Oh wow!" Tim continued between pants, "Oh shit!"

Matt raised his head to look at Tim.

"...You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that!" he said with a near sob in his voice.

"...Yeah!" (pant) "Me too!..."

"Really?!..."

Tim literally couldn't reply. He continued panting. He nodded his head with a weak smile.

"...I....I was gonna....(puff, puff) kinda come out to you today. I just couldn't find the words!" (pant) "All I could do was stare at your mouth!........Oh shit. I'm so sorry for that. I just couldn't stop myself this time!"

He knew he was near the edge of tears. He felt Tim's arms tighten around him.

"There's nothing to be sorry for! Oh! Matty! I'm just so (huff) happy you did! I was just way to shy to make the first move!"

Matt returned his head to Tim's shoulder as he spoke.

"You were just......well kind of hard to figure out. It was nice laying on that couch in the basement with you..........But when we'd get up, you seemed like nothing even happened!"

Matt felt another deep hug. Another crash of thunder could be felt through the ground.

"...I know, I know.........That wasn't right of me. I ahh......don't really think that was my shyness. I don't think it was even what you'd call embarrassed.......I felt guilty!"

"Fir what?!"

"Oh......my fantasies! All the stuff I was thinking of doing with you. It made me feel bad."

"...Ummm....then those weren't little bumps when your mouth hit my neck and cheek?"

"No! They weren't the accidents I made 'em look. I just wanted to feel you against my lips. Even if it was just for a fraction of a second!"

"Maybe we should have been a bit more honest with each other sooner..."

"Yeah. But it wasn't just honesty with me. I had that other shy hurdle to get over."

They remained silent for a moment longer. Both catching their breath. Matt's head remained in his shoulder.

"...So........Does this mean we kinda just came out to each other?"

"Yeah. I think it does..."

"I want something better than that! We gotta say it!..."

He lifted his head and looked closely at Tim.

"...Timmy........I just want you to know....I really like you!"

Tim didn't reply. His face grew serious. He pushed Matt to his back and looked at his face. Tim had remained quiet just long enough to have a fearful shudder pass through Matt. He reached out and tenderly pushed the hair from his eyes. Another flash of lightning lit their faces, if only for a fraction of a second.

"...Well, Matty........I want you to know that I really like you too!"

Tim fell on top of him and pressed his head close to Matt's.

Another crash of thunder shook the tent.

"Oh wow!" Matt gasped, "This is just so.........wonderful!"

They lie in silence for a moment. Tim was the first to speak.

"...Yeah. I'll never forget the day we met. Oh! I was just terrified of going to school. I saw my locker number was going to be very close to yours. I didn't know what to say to you! I kept giving you glances. I already told you I thought you were popular. You didn't look shy. Well, maybe after awhile you did...

"I was on my knees getting stuff out of my pack. I did that just so I could glance up under your hair. I wanted to see your eyes! Holy shit! I almost melted!"

"...Hee,hee,hee. Oh Shit!......You mean like the wicked witch?!"

"Exactly! In fact it's silly, but that's just what I was thinking!"

"I was too!......I felt like a pile of goop with clothes floating on top!"

"Me too! Wow! I guess we're kinda alike, huh?"

He placed his head on Matt's chest.

"...Ummm..." Matt began, "This is kinda personal. You don't have to answer this. But how did you feel having to leave your boyfriend in California?"

Tim snapped his head up.

"WHAT?!......What boyfriend?!......Are you kidding?!......I wasn't out to anyone! In fact it was just last year I was out to myself!"

"Come on!......I promise I won't be jealous. You had a boyfriend. With the way you can kiss?! You were drivin' me nuts here!"

"No! No!......Honest Matty, there's nobody!......That was my very first kiss! Shit! You were driving me nuts! I didn't want it end! I just couldn't breathe any more! Well, not through my nose!"

"Timmy..........If that was your first kiss, and you get any amount of practice......You're gonna fuckin' KILL me!"

They laughed as they hugged again. Tim kissed Matt's ear and ran his lips down his neck.

"Eeeeeee! No!......Not the neck! Not the neck! That feels like a electric shock goin' right down my spine!"

Tim crawled a short distance and switched the lamp off.

"The heck with those snacks!......I want some more snacks right here!"

They continued with short kisses, gasps and hugs. All around them, lightning flashed in one series after another. Thunder crackled and rumbled.

"Wait Tim........I want to get my hands under your shirt. I just wanna squeeze your ribs more!"

"I love it when you do that. Just don't dig with your fingertips. I already told you I'm worse than a girl when it comes to being tickled."

"Hee,hee,hee......I was just thinking of the night we were on the couch. I was rubbin' your belly and feelin' your belly button........It's so cute! All I could think of was sticking my tongue into it!"

"Iiiieeeekkk!" Tim gasped as he fell to his side. His thighs drew up.

"Oh....my....God....Matty....Don't ever do that! Just thinking about that kills me! I'm not foolin' here! OH!......Matty, I swear! I'll start pissin' my pants!"

"Hee,hee,hee"

"No! Really! That would turn me off in two seconds! I'm serious here! I can't be tickled!"

They settled down once again, only touching each other in silence. Both seemed lost in their own thoughts. The wind continued to balloon the tent outward and snapping it inward. Matt finally spoke.

"Don't take this the wrong way....but I'm getting soooo sleepy again."

"Take it the wrong way?"

"Yeah. Like I'm so bored I wanna sleep! It's just last night when I decided to come out to you. I didn't get much sleep. Ohhhh, Tim, I'm just soooo drained! And this is just so nice simply holding you. It's just a relief to me. I feel like I ran a marathon!"

"Yeah. I understand. I feel the same way too. Well, not drained. Just sorta content. Yeah. I sure could sleep some more too. It's still early. I was just so excited my braces didn't hurt today! I was so scared that was going to ruin our whole week! Yeah. Let's take a little nap. I don't wanna even dash for the house out in that! Just squeeze my ribs again........but no tickling!"

Tim felt a sudden quiver from deep within Matt's chest. He gave a slight gasp, followed by a sob. He quickly looked up and noticed a tear running down each cheek.

"...Oh! Matty....Babe! Don't cry, huh?..."

"...I....I can....can't help it!......Oh Timmy," he gasped.

Tim looked closely at his face. He held his head gently and wiped a tear from each cheek with his thumbs.

"....I'm not sad......I'm happy!......I've never been so happy in my life!"

"...Matty....Please?....If you don't stop....I'm going to start!"

"...I can't help it, Timmy!......I'm in heaven here! I've just never felt so happy in my life! I'm the happiest boy in the world!"

He broke into uncontrollable sobs as he pulled Tim's chest tightly against himself. His hug was nearly painful for him. He placed his head on Matt's shoulder and lightly kissed his neck. He suddenly broke into sobs himself.

"No!....You're the second happiest boy in the world!" Tim sobbed.

They both held each tightly, tears of joy running down their faces. The worry and tension was suddenly gone.

Again there was one flash of lightning after another. Earsplitting thunder continued to crackle and rumble almost constantly. A deluge continued against the tent with a hissing, ripping sound. The metal frame of the tent shook and rattled. It would have frightened anybody but they took little notice of it.

For several minutes, they sobbed and hugged. They didn't suddenly fall asleep, they passed out, clinging to each other.

They woke hours later from a sound sleep. Both still held each other. Outside was quiet with the exception of a distant bird chirping. The tent was light and warm.

"Ohhh....Ohhhh......I feel drugged!" Matt moaned, "I wish I knew what time it was!"

"Just a sec," Tim replied, drawing his jacket close, "I got my cell."

"You took your cell out here?!"

"...Gramma! She put it in my pocket!......And holy shit! It's twelve fifteen!"

"...We slept......we slept, like fourteen hours?!"

Tim set his jacket aside and lie beside Matt. His face was tired yet his smile was large. He reached under Matt's t-shirt and gently stroked his chest.

"...I woke up a couple times there," Tim began, "and I was thinking about you considering coming out to me. You were really zonked out here. And I started thinking about what you must have went through. If it had been me, ohhhh, I think I'd have taken years to do that!"

He placed his head on his chest, continuing to rub and squeeze his ribs.

"Holy shit, Matty!......I....I don't ever think I could ever do that!......I mean not until you did it first! I told you I just came out to myself a year ago! I didn't like it! I didn't like all these....these feelings I had! Oh shit, I was just so scared!....I didn't wanna be gay!......I felt so....alone! I mean I knew what it was all about. I saw stuff on television. I looked stuff up on the Net! There were all these organizations and clubs. I started reading about all of it. And I found that nobody has any control over this! I......I was looking for some kind of medicine I could take to make me normal again. Then I found out that I was normal...... just....ummm ....different."

Matt looked up at him. He traced his finger lightly over Tim's lips.

"...Yup!......Same here!......Only I was twelve! And....hee,hee....I was looking for some kind of medicine too!......My dad hates gays!......I mean really hates 'em! He thinks they should all be shot! He goes on and on! I keep seeing these Holocaust moves we saw in school! Oh shit, Timmy......Nobody can find out!"

Tim rose up slightly. He reached out and brushed the hair from Matt's eyes. He slowly leaned in and their lips touched lightly. Neither felt any passion or excitement. Indeed they felt a sudden closeness and profound understanding between each other.

"OH!....OH!......TIMMY!....MATTY!....BOYS!"

"That's gramma!" Tim gasped, shooting from the sleeping bag.

Both boys pushed the flaps of the tent open to see her on the steps of the porch.

"Oh!......Oh dear!......Oh my stars!"

She put one hand to her chest, with the other, she gripped the metal handrail. She slowly settled to the top step.

"GRAMMA!....You okay?!" Tim asked, trotting up.

"Oh!....Just gimme a minute here."

"Gram....Are you havin' a heart attack?!"

"Oh my stars!......I believe I pretty-near had one!"

She appeared winded. She quickly gathered herself. Tim sat beside her.

"...I left for the bus at nine this morning......I had to pick up a few things at the shopping center..."

"Gram!....Gram!....None of your long stories here!....Are you okay?"

She reached out and patted his knee.

"...I'm quite all right!......Well NOW I am!...

"I was at the shopping center getting one of those little date reminder books. You know how forgetful I'm getting! I have to write everything down!...

"...Now don't you know!......I missed the bus three times!......I wasn't watching the time. So I kept going from shop to shop. You know, to sort of pass the time..."

"Gramma!......Pleeeeease?....No long stories! What is your POINT here?!"

"...Now I'm getting to that!...

"...So don't you know I didn't get home 'til half-past twelve!......And I noticed no sign of you boys! I looked through the house and your room. And you weren't even in the family room playing those awful shooting games!...

"...Then I went into the kitchen and looked around. Why there were no cereal bowls on the table. There were no dishes in the sink. There was no sign you two had even been in the house! So now I checked the bathroom!......The towels 'n' washcloths were just hanging there as neat as a pin..."

"...GRAMMA!......Pleeeeease?!"

"...So now I thought that perhaps you two may have gone off on your bikes or such. And when I looked out the back window there and saw Matty's bike still out there on the patio!"

Her face seemed to pale again as she held her chest.

"...So now I just KNEW that you two had suffocated in that damn tent!"

"Gramma!....You can't..."

"...Ohhhh! I could just see it all!......I'd find the both of you all blue in the face....With your glassy eyes just sorta staring out!..."

"Gramma! Don't do this to yourself!......You can't suffocate in a tent!..."

"Well now, it was just last year that your father sprayed that thing with that awful WATERPROOFING SHIT!"

Matt, who'd been sitting on a lower step, quickly turned as his body shook with a giggle.

"Why I slapped that boy right in the head! I told him he was NUTS! Why, if water can't get through, how does he expect AIR to get through!"

Tim took her by the arm.

"Come here, Gram......I want to show you something!"

He took her into the tent. It was large enough to allow them to stand.

Matt's eyes fell to his perfectly unrolled sleeping bag. There didn't seem to be a wrinkle in it. Indeed, even the zipper was closed to the very top. He quickly lie down and sprawled across it.

"...Now look, Gram......See those flaps? You can see daylight all around 'em! And look at these windows we've got zipped up......You can see light through the zippers! That's to keep the wind out not the AIR! Look at the SIZE of this thing! It's made for five people, Gram! Now if five people can breathe in here, I'm sure me 'n' Matt can!"

She looked around within the dark tent. Many gaps and openings could be seen.

"...Well....Okay. That does make me feel so much better. Now come into the house and wash up a bit........I'm putting on breakfast for you two..."

"...Gramma! We can have a bowl of..."

"...You'll have pancakes!......Why those cereals today are a handful of oats 'n' wheat with a TON of sugar sprayed on it!"

They walked toward the house. Minutes before the sky overhead was brilliant blue. The sky was gradually becoming overcast once again, yet not dark. She glanced over the sky.

"Oh dear......RAIN!....Again!......I can feel it in my bones!"

They followed her at her slow pace. She took the steps one at a time.

"...Why breakfast at one o'clock in the afternoon!......Of all things!"

She raised her right hand, shaking her curved finger in the air.

"Why if your father was in bed 'til noon, that boy would have had my foot up his ass!"

Both boys turned away from each other, covering their mouths. They both shook in silent laughter.

They both left the bathroom and entered the kitchen. They had washed and changed their t-shirts, yet they still wore their jeans with grass stains on the knees.

"You boys should change those trousers as well!"

She paused and rubbed her bare arms.

"Ooooo!......Don't you feel as though you've got BUGS crawling on you?!"

They took places opposite each other at the breakfast nook. This is where the table had been set. Tim's grandmother went for the range and began to ladle out batter onto a hot skillet.

"...I was never one to go camping!......Picnics, fine! But no sleeping out on the ground!" she went on, "Oh!......Cold, damp tents!......Bugs 'n' mosquitoes! And if I should ever encounter a snake!....Oh dear God!......Nope! Not for me! And to think people call that relaxing! Why I'd be a nervous wreck! I relax in my rocker! In a warm, dry house. And if I should take a chill, the thermostat is only several feet away. You simply twist it up!"

She turned to face the boys, looking at them over her glasses.

"...And I'll tell you something else!......I like things that go flush in the night!"

They both burst out laughing.

She set plates out before them as she ran on talking. It was obvious she was enjoying herself with fussing over her boys!

Matt found the pancakes were golden brown. They weren't pasty near the center, nor excessively dry. He could distinctly taste real vanilla and cinnamon. They helped themselves to huge helpings of bacon and tiny sausages. Tim's grandmother smiled at them as she paced around, sipping a coffee.

Tim suddenly dropped his fork.

"GRAMMA!......Will you SIT DOWN?!......You're making me nervous here! I know what you're doin'! You're waiting for me 'n' Matt to finish so you can grab our plates and clean up after us! We can wash a couple plates 'n' glasses! Your legs are going to start bothering you again!"

She shook her curved finger in the air.

"I'll not hear of it! Your mother and I have told you how nice this is for you to finally have a friend! We enjoy this! And I'd certainly like the two of you to keep out of that dark, damp cellar today! Go out to the park! Meet some fellas your own age. And make more friends!........Play on the swings, or whatever!"

Matt blushed as he looked up.

"...Gram......Those swings are made for like really little kids."

"Well then play at the stream or around the pond out there! Climb some trees! And I shouldn't care if you get dirty, rip your clothes or fall in and get wet! Just please......no gory shooting games in that basement today!"

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