Matt and Tim

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 9

Tim's large black eyes contrasted with his pale face. They darted around as he seemed to think for several moments.

"...Oh shit!....Oh shit....I don't feel so good......My stomach's flippin'!...

"We gotta think of something, Matty! We gotta explain this somehow!"

"I'm tryin'!....I'm tryin'!"

They stood up, pulling on their shirts. Their minds raced!

"...Umm....If your mom asks anything......we were umm....wrestling around! And....and we were up really late and got really tired and just collapsed!..."

"...Oh fuckin' brilliant, Matty! Really late?......What time was that?......Like four hours after my mom came down here?! She probably checked on us before midnight!..."

Matt made his way to the couch and sat down.

"We gotta calm down here......We gotta think!......We can come up with something!"

Tim gathered up the sections of wadded paper towels.

"I gotta hide these!......If I take these up into the kitchen and I get caught. Mom will want to know what we spilled!"

Matt covered his face with his hands.

"...Oh shit!..."

Tim stuffed the wadded paper towels under the couch.

"...I'll throw these away when I know it's safe."

Matt began rocking back and forth on the couch, holding his crotch.

"...I gotta pee a lake! Let's think of something quick. I gotta get up there!"

"Yeah! I gotta go too!......We'll just have to wing it!"

They both broke into a run for the stairs. They passed through the kitchen too quickly to even be greeted by Clara. Both ran for the bathroom, knowing each others urgency superseded any modesty or polite protocol of taking turns. Both entered together.

Ayumi had heard the boys run past the room. She was about to bookmark the site before shutting down.

"No......I write it down. I really don't care if Tim were to see it......It's just he may delete it, not knowing what it is...

"And I'm not even going to clear the history either! If he should check it....Fine!"

After flushing the toilet, Tim opened the door. They began to wash at the sink.

Ayumi walked into the kitchen. The breakfast nook had been set and Clara was already preheating the griddle.

"Anything I can help you with?" she asked.

"Oh no, no......Well, perhaps some bacon and sausages from the frig."

"I think I'll just have eggs and toast. Pancakes suddenly seems a bit too much for me this morning."

"Well, you bring those things over here. There's plenty of room on the griddle here."

Ayumi took a seat on a stool near the island, her familiar green, chipped mug before her.

"Okay......Now......The boys will be out here any minute. What do I say? With Mom out here, I'll have to be careful. Everything I had in mind is already out the window!...

"How do I bring up the subject?......Okay now, slow and careful. I've just got to comment on something carefully. I want to put the both of them at ease. How I'd like them to just come to me. Oh, I'd better not say anything with Mom around! If my suspicions are correct, it would crush her!"

The boys ran for Tim's room. Matt already had a drawer in Tim's dresser of assorted clothing.

"...I still can't think of anything, Matty! What are we gonna do?!"

Matt dropped into Tim's computer chair and swiveled it.

"...Umm......I think it's already too late. Oh shit! Why don't we just come out?!"

"Are you shittin' me Matty?!......With Gramma in there and everything? Even if I did come out......I'd wanna ask my mom what she thought about Gram knowing!"

Tim paced the floor several times before throwing his arms out.

"...Oh let's just get out there and face whatever's gonna happen!"

Matt looked up sadly, yet seriously from the chair.

"...Timmy......I'm not gonna lie! I'm really getting bothered with all this. I hate all this lying and constantly covering up!......And all this..."

"We ain't lying about anything!"

Matt held his arms out, palms up, in a defeated gesture.

"Yes we are Timmy!......Can't you see that?! We're not exactly saying the words but we're lying!......We lie every time we hear someone coming. We lie when we break a kiss short. We lie when we cut a hug short. We aren't saying the words but we're lying because of what we aren't saying!"

Tim's shoulders dropped as he stood there defeated.

"Well, let's just go out there..."

Ayumi continued to sit at the island in deep thought. Clara gave her several glances.

"...You seem a bit......distant, Ayumi......I noticed last night. Something on your mind?"

"Oh no......Nothing all that important. I've been daydreaming a bit..."

"...I see Kenny didn't come home again last night."

"Yeah he texted me. Seems like their conference went right on 'til two this morning. They all decided to just get a motel room for the night. He should be home sometime this afternoon."

The boys entered silently and sat at the nook.

Ayumi took a sip of her coffee. Her mind raced for something to say.

"...Sooo......Did you boys sleep okay last night?"

They both nodded, afraid to say anything.

Ayumi moved her coffee mug to the nook and set it before her place. She assisted Clara in serving.

"...I thought the furnace quit again last night. I forgot the thermostat was set for sixty five......I went down into the basement thinking I had to reset it. You two really looked out of it!"

"...Umm....Yeah! Matty got a little chilly......It was my idea he get in my bag with me. I warmed him up. He didn't feel too good."

"...Yeah, that's right. I was umm....really cold for a little bit there. In fact....umm....I really thought I was coming down with a cold er something..."

Clara sat opposite them, shaking her finger.

"I keep tellin' you boys! You don't dress warm enough! You'll both be awful sick if you don't take care of yourselves."

"...Well, umm......It was only for a little while. I feel fine now, Gram..."

They continued eating in silence. They made no attempt at talking about any plans for the day. They didn't joke with each other.

Ayumi glanced at them from time to time as they ate silently.

"They both look like the cat that ate the canary! Oh! How I want to open this up somehow...

"They both look so sweet and innocent!......Maybe I am reading too much into this. No! Not after last night! That was not innocent! That was intimate! Oh! Think! Think!"

"...Sooo....Do you boys have anything big planned for the day?"

Tim shrugged.

"...Nah! Not really. Maybe go out to the park or the river......You know. Just hang out."

"...Yeah. We like to sit around....kinda think about stuff....talk."

"So. Have you two decided on joining the GSA this year?"

Both boys stopped chewing simultaneously and glanced at each other.

"...Well," Matt began, "I really want to write articles for them. I....umm....think it would be good. We're working real hard with Principal Emerson to stop violence and bullying."

Ayumi sipped at her coffee. She looked over the mug at both of them.

"...Are you boys being bullied at school?..."

"...Oh no!......Nobody knows about us!......I mean JOINING! We never told anyone.... umm....about us!....joining!"

"Well......I want you to know you have our blessing. If there's anything Ken and I can do, you just let us know..."

"...So you say this GSA is some safety club?" Clara asked, "Exactly what do those letters stand for?"

Ayumi nearly choked on her coffee. Her eyes seemed to double in size.

"...Oh that means Get Safe America!" Tim recalled Matt's words, "They're all over the whole country, Gram! We kinda take in kids who are......different. You know, the ones that get picked on by the older, tougher kids. We think everyone should be treated equally. It's not right to be discriminated against because you're different. So what if someone has pink hair, or dresses differently! And lots of 'em have friends who are different. Some kids at school think you should just hang out with certain other kids. They don't like it when your even friendly with kids who are different. They don't like you even talking to 'em! It's not right!"

Clara slowly rose from the table as she shook her finger at them both.

"You boys are little saints!......Didn't I tell you, Ayumi? They think everyone should be friends."

She made her way to the coffee maker.

"...You boys were awful shy just a few months ago. I think you understand! You know what it's like being left alone. You both know what it's like not being included!"

The boys drew up their bikes at the familiar grassy knoll near the river. The roar of the water spilling over the dam could already be heard. They had traveled this far without much conversation. Again, both were lost in their own thoughts.

Matt shyly put his arm around Tim and drew him close as they walked. They neared the stonework of the dam where they had planned to sit, only to see a figure already there. The noise of their feet in the gravel caused the figure to turn.

"...SCOOTER!" Tim yelled out with a large smile and a wave.

The figure suddenly turned back again. Tim and Matt sat on either side of him.

"...So....Scoot....Where's Toby today?"

Scooter drew the sleeve of his sweatshirt over his eyes. It was here they could see his entire face was red, and he was crying.

"...At home....I guess..."

"...Home?....Whoa! Don't tell us you two had a fight er something, huh?"

Scooter shook his head, fighting to hold back more tears.

"...Yesterday afternoon," he began, "We were going to take our bikes out for a ride. In fact, we were coming right here!......We've had some if the happiest times here!"

He choked, holding back a sob.

"...We went into my garage to get my bike. My dad was getting something out of the trunk of the car......We didn't see him! We were tellin' each other how much we loved each other and started kissing......Wow! My dad FREAKED!......He caught us! There was nothing we could do! We couldn't come up with any excuses!..."

His face twisted up painfully as he burst out crying again. Tim drew his head to his chest and rubbed his back. Scooter continued as best as he could.

"...We......we can't see each other any more! It's all over! We can never be caught together again!"

His sobs overpowered his ability to talk. Tim rubbed his cheek as he kissed the top of his head. Matt reached out to take Scooter's hand into his own. He felt the cold fingers clamp to his own as a vise. Matt rubbed his forearm, trying to get circulation to the cold fingers.

Both were at a loss for words. In their minds, this was one of their own nightmares. They had no idea of how they would handle it. They certainly understood the heartrending feelings which were passing through little Scooter.

"We can never be together again! Dad said he didn't raise a queer! He said there wasn't going to be any fags in his family!"

Again he collapsed into uncontrollable sobs.

After a full twenty minutes of Scooter's sobs and silence from the others, he sobered himself somewhat.

"...Oh shit....This is so embarrassing!"

"No! No!" Tim put in quickly, "It's okay. We're all friends here. Me and Matty were just thinking the same thing. If we get caught......the same thing could happen to us. We know exactly how you feel! We couldn't handle it either."

"...Yeah, but you only got two more years 'til you're eighteen. We gotta wait five! I can't do it! I can't live that long without Toby! I don't want to live that long without him!"

Matt put his arm around Scooter from behind, while Tim held his shoulders. They felt the dead weight between themselves. It was nearly as though they could feel his hopelessness. They could nearly feel his loss of desire to live. Their hearts pounded with near panic.

"No! No!" Matt put in quickly, "Don't ever say that! Dead people can't change anything! I know five years sounds like a long time......but how about forever?! And that's how long you'll be dead! Just think about that!...

"Look......You're in junior high! We got a GSA there now. You can go! There's no age limit on joining. Me 'n' Timmy are going to join this year. And guess what?!......We're going to get parents into it!...

"You do know what a GSA is, don't you?"

Scooter only nodded his head.

As Matt had talked, he'd gripped Scooter's forearm. He absentmindedly used his thumb to turn a bracelet around Scooter's wrist. As he took notice, he saw it was a blue-green in color and consisted of flat links. He'd never noticed it before. He also noticed it didn't have a clasp anywhere around it.

"Hey cool bracelet!....But how do you get it on and off?"

Scooter took his other hand and rolled it to his hand. It stopped at the base of his palm.

"I don't get it off!..."

He drew up his feet and toyed with the bracelet for a moment.

"...When me 'n' Toby were eight....he gave this to me. He put this on me! I don't know where he got it. I told him I'd never take it off! Now I can't get it off if I wanted to! But I don't want to!...

"I guess we were still too young to really know what was happening. We just kissed and cuddled 'n' stuff. We didn't really think anything about it! We didn't understand it yet!...

"When we were broke apart......Dad made me give everything back to him that he'd ever given me in our lives!......Everything!......All his gifts, the books he gave me, little toys, a glass sun catcher that makes those pretty rainbow colors on the walls. That hurt the most! I had it in my bedroom window in the summer. I'd leave the window open and let the wind blow it around. It would spin on its thin wire and make the prettiest rainbow colors on the walls. I remember a quite a few days where I'd just lay in bed for hours watching it! Really! I'd watch it until the sun was around the side of the house."

The boys could nearly see this in their mind's eye.

"...Yup. This is all I have left from Toby. I'm never telling my dad he gave it to me. He'll cut it off and throw it away! Or give it back to the Ace's! That's Toby's last name...

"He just charged over there and dumped everything on the floor. He told them to keep their faggot kid away from me! He said he was trying to ruin my life!"

The boys were at a loss to reply to this.

"...So," Matt continued, "...How'd you like to go to a GSA meeting?......We're going to have one Thursday after school. Nothing real important, but you can meet people."

Scooter shook his head.

"My dad knows about it. If he catches me in there......I'm dead!....or worse! He doesn't want me in any queer clubs!......That's a quote!"

"Oh, bummer..."

Scooter got to his feet brushing sand and stone from his bottom.

"...Well, I'd better get going. You guys have really been nice to me......Toby too! He really likes you!..."

"Well, hey! Let us give you our e-mails, huh?......You do have a computer, huh?"

"...Well, yes and....no. I can only use it for schoolwork......And my dad has to be sitting right there to watch me!"

"...Well what the fuck?!"

"...Hey.....I guess that's how it's gonna be from now on......Or for as long as I can take it."

He gave them each a deep hug.

"...You guys are the greatest!.....And......If I don't make it......Don't feel all guilty about it, huh?"

"Will you cut that shit out?!......Now you're really scarin' the fuck outta us here! Now you call us before you do something stupid!......Or call Tim's mom! Doctor Webster! She works at the hospital! She'll get you help!......Please?"

"Okay......I'll do that."

Scooter disappeared into the wooded area as Matt and Tim watched.

"Wow!" Tim began, "The poor little guy really sounds depressed."

"Depressed?......He's really scarin' me. Oh what he must be goin' through right now!"

They sat back down and gazed at the water rushing over the spillway. It had been a chilly morning, but now the sun was out bright. They removed their sweatshirts and sat on them.

"...Timmy....umm....Let's face it......Your mom caught us last night!"

"...Oh yeah!......And she was actin' kinda weird at breakfast. You gotta know her!"

"...Well she did kinda seem like she was okay with the GSA, huh?"

"...Well, yeah but......what if she starts restricting our visits? I don't think I'll have it as bad as Scooter. I don't think they'd ever keep us away from each other to that point. But I think we've seen the end of the overnighters!"

Matt gazed into the swirling water at the base of the dam. The small whirlpool was still there. Several leaves and twigs circled with the current.

"...Yeah! I'm thinkin' the same thing. I mean we weren't bare-assed or anything....but we were umm....kinda cuddled up together..."

"That's for sure! She seemed kinda calm this morning....but last night I'll bet she shit!"

"...I don't know about that exactly. I mean she did put the blanket over us."

"...Well what would you do?....Wake us up?! She probably just thought it was better to leave us alone for the night."

Matt reached around Tim's waist from behind.

"I wanted to just come out here today and be with you......And think......And talk....but now I can't stop thinking about little Scooter."

"Yeah......Me too. It looked like he was cryin' all morning!"

"...Ace. I think I heard Toby tell me his last name was Ace. He's hard to hear sometimes. He talks very quiet...

"...I was umm....thinking......Maybe we could call Toby. We could tell him that Scooter still misses him. He must feel awful lonely. And I keep thinking....I wonder if Toby was there to hear Mr. Shelby call him a little fag. I'll bet that really hurt him. Oh! I wanna help him so bad!....Both of 'em. They're just so sweet together! They're really good kids!"

Tim thought about this for a moment.

"Let's go back and check the Net for his phone number. We'll call him up from my room. I'll use my cell."

They quickly made their way back and entered Tim's room. They checked phone listings and decided to call.

"You better do the talking," Tim said, "You know I'm no good at that."

They sat on Tim's bed, side by side. Matt had turned the volume up and held the phone between them so they could both hear. The phone rang and who they seemed to believe was his mother answered.

"...Hellooww?" the tired voice said weakly.

"...Umm......Yeah. This is Matt from school....Could I talk with Toby?....er Zack?"

"...Just a moment..."

There was the sound of the phone changing hands.

"Hello?"

"Toby!......It's Matty!....I'm over at Tim's house. Hey! How you doin'?"

"Okay....I guess..."

"Hey, we ran into Scoot down at the river today. He told us what happened! We're really hurtin' for the both of you!......Can you talk?..."

"Just a sec..."

Toby paused until the sound of dishes could be heard clanking in the distance.

"...Is Scoot okay?" Toby replied, obviously holding back a sob.

"...Umm......I'd really like to tell you yes, but I can't lie. He's really hurtin' Tob. He told us all about you getting caught. He was really cryin' hard.... umm....We want to help you somehow."

"...Yeah, sure!....What can you do?......What can any of us do?"

"Tob?......How are things with your parents?"

"Quiet......Real quiet...

"Dad's in the living room starin' at the TV. He doesn't watch it, he stares at it! Mom's been doing laundry, housework and she's washing dishes! She's washing dishes that are old. Dishes that haven't been used for awhile. They're clean, but she's washing them. And she's washing old blankets 'n' sheets. Then she irons 'em! What the hell?......You're just gonna lay on 'em! Why do they have to be ironed?!...

"Dad didn't say much of anything....Still hasn't!......Mom keeps tellin' me I'm too young to know if I'm gay. I don't know why she thinks I need to be older! You just know right? So what's a few more years?......I always knew, from waaayyy back. Well, I didn't know exactly what it was....but I knew!"

"...Look, Toby......Me 'n' Tim are joining up with the GSA. Could you come to one of our meetings?..."

There was silence.

"...You do know what the GSA is right?"

"Yeah......but I don't think that's a good idea. I can't be late home from school. Mr. Shelby is really throwin' a fit. I think he wants to sue us or something. My parents will think I'm seeing Scoot! They don't want any trouble."

"...Toby......My English teacher Mr. Heath is going to be sponsor in the GSA this year. He's like an adult moderator. He can call your parents and tell them it's all on the level and you're not seeing anyone. If it's okay with your parents, I'm sure he'll talk to 'em...

"You two have been bullied in grade school. It probably isn't going to stop overnight! Just push the truth a bit. Tell them we're working on tolerance! Tell them you're worried about this happening again."

"...Well, I am!"

"Well tell them that! And you can even have them call Principal Emerson! He hates violence in the schools! He'll tell them you aren't seeing Scoot! He'll tell 'em how much good the GSA is doing and how they need everyone's input. Will your dad go along with it?"

"...Oh gee......I really don't know! He's really out of it! I don't believe he can even think right now!"

"Well, we're having a meeting Thursday. I'll see you around school. We'll see what we can do. I'm sure any of the teachers will cover for you. When's your lunch?"

"...Well it used to be fifth......It's changed to fourth this week......To keep me 'n' Scooter away from each other."

"They changed your schedule?"

"Well, just lunch......Me 'n' Scoot don't have any other classes together. His father said he doesn't want Scoot around me because I'm a troublemaker! Now all the teachers are going to think it's true! I don't want to start any trouble!"

"...Yeah......I know, Tob...

"Well, me 'n' Tim got fourth too. Look, me 'n' Tim kinda have our own table in the cafeteria. Do you know the one that runs along beside the kitchen?......The one with the old black chalkboard by it?"

"Oh yeah!"

"...Well, that's where we sit. Just come over and join us, huh? We'll work this out! Now it's not gonna happen overnight! It'll take time..."

He heard a sniff on the line.

"...So how is Scooter doin'?..."

"...Well, like I told you....I won't lie......He hurtin' really bad! He told us about all your stuff he had to give back. He misses the sun catcher the most!"

"...Yeah......He always said he liked that. I got it up in my room now. In my window. I just keep thinkin' about the day I can give it back to him in person!......He always said he couldn't live without me. I'm really scared he's gonna umm......try something!"

"Yeah......He told us the same thing. We kinda talked him down on that one...

"...And, hey......Don't say anything to anyone about the bracelet you got him. He says it's the only thing he has left from you. He kinda touches it and plays with it. I think that's about the only thing that he's got left to hang on to. If he loses that, I really think he'll go right over the edge! If anyone asks....you don't know anything!"

"Sure."

"Okay now......You got a pen handy?"

"Just a sec..."

There was an indication Toby was clawing his way through some drawer or organizer.

"...Okay, I'm ready..."

"...Okay, here's our e-mail addresses. You write us!"

Toby softly repeated the addresses as he wrote them down. Next he gave them his own.

"...Right!......Now you got a cell?"

"...No......We really can't afford one right now."

"Well here's mine and Tim's cell phones. One or the other of us will always have our phones on. If one of us doesn't answer, the other will."

Again Toby softly repeated the numbers as he wrote.

"Have you got Scoot's e-add?"

"Oh! No!......Don't send him anything! I'm sure his dad will be checking all his mail!"

"I won't cause any trouble. I won't even mention you!......And I'll keep it in mind that the 'rents are probably reading it too!"

Toby seemed reluctant, but gave it to him, obviously by memory.

"...Now really Tob......We wanna help. We know you're shy. We are too! We'll do all the talking! We can get teachers behind us on this one. We're going to get adults into our meetings! It's going to take a bit, but just hang in there."

"...Sure......You 'n' Tim have really been good to us. We....umm....didn't really trust you at first. OH! We do NOW! We were just a bit scared at first..."

Matt and Tim distinctly hear more sniffles.

"...If you run into Scooter....(sniff)....You tell him I love him with all my heart!......And I always will!"

"...You better believe we will! And Scoot says he loves you too!..."

"...Okay.......Thanks. You guys are great!....Now (sniff) I think I gotta go back up into my room now....cause....(sniff) I think I gotta cry some more!..."

There was a deep sigh and a sob as the phone went dead.

Matt snapped the phone shut as they continued to stare at the floor near their feet. Matt noticed Tim wipe a tear from his eye with his sleeve.

"...Oh shit, Matty," Tim whispered, "That really hurts. I sure hope that isn't us in a few days."

"Well, let's try not to think about this stuff right now..."

Matt quickly ran for the computer and started it up.

"...I wanna go on a site I was on a couple weeks ago. It's more for parents than kids. I wanna send Toby some stuff that maybe he can get his mom to read. It's stuff that parents don't understand......Like age!....And 'How can you be sure?' It's even got a ten minute video on it by a psychologist, just for parents! And I got another article I want to send about kids coming out at earlier ages......Well, not that Scoot 'n' Tob exactly......came out!"

Tim sat beside him, playing with his phone.

"...I wonder if I should try that number for Scoot.....I mean, even if he can't exactly talk he can at least listen! I just wanna give him some hope!"

"Well, that's one I think you will have to take care of. If our dads know each other from the mill, that could cause lots of problems!..."

After a minute, Tim slowly closed his phone.

"...Shit!......It's an answering machine!......And it specifically says Scooter isn't allowed any calls!"

"Shit!......That sounds like a prison!......Yeah, I don't know how long I'd be able to live under those conditions!...

"Maybe we could kinda write out an e-mail for him, but kinda keep it in like a code or something......Something only he'd understand. We can do a rough draft on the word processor first. I'll do a copy and paste to the e-mail. It's gotta be perfect! Once we send it......We can't unsend it!"

"I don't know about this Matty. I really wanna keep his hopes up, but I don't want him into more trouble!"

"...Let's see here......Scoot......Thanks for your help on the river project. For such a young kid, you sure know your shit!......Oh! I'd better not put that in there!"

"...Why not?......It'll look more real! Like whoever wrote it isn't expecting anyone else to be reading it."

"...Yeah, okay......I wanna tell him Toby misses and still loves him. What code word do I use for Toby?..."

"...Look Matty......I wanna do this. I really wanna keep his hopes up, but why don't we just wait 'til Monday. We can tell him right in school!"

"Monday might be too late!......What if he just loses it?......What if he commits suicide?!"

"SUICIDE?!" they heard from the door. Both had jumped.

"Mom!"

"What's this I just heard about suicide?!"

Tim sat at the headboard of his bed, playing with his cell. Matt's fingers slid from the keyboard before the computer. Both glanced down remaining silent.

Oh dear! I don't think that was meant as a figure of speech! They're way too serious!"

"...I wanna know what's going on here. Now I don't care which one of you starts talking first, but one of you is going to start..."

Tim sighed and took a deep breath.

"...Well, Mom....umm....Remember us meeting Scooter and Toby this summer?"

"Yes."

"...Well they're like......umm......gay!"

"...AND?..."

"...Well, we didn't know they were even out there! At the river I mean. We kinda stumbled onto them. It was a little embarrassing. We kinda caught 'em....umm....well, kissing."

Ayumi slowly sat at the foot of Tim's bed.

"...Where is all this heading?..."

"Oh Mom......This is all so complicated."

"I've got 'til Monday morning!"

"...Well, Scooter's father is a real homophobe. He keeps thinking if he keeps the two of 'em apart......Scooter won't be gay anymore......I guess he caught 'em kissing and really went ballistic."

"...And he thinks if he keeps them apart, Scooter will be....be cured?!"

"...Yeah."

"...Well now if that isn't the most ridiculous thing I've heard!"

Tim held his hand out toward the computer. Ayumi clearly saw by the gesture he was indicating the Internet.

"...Mom......You wouldn't believe what some people out there think!...

"...We ahhh......met Scooter 'n' Toby out there and it was really embarrassing for all of us. They were scared we were going to tell on 'em. It's bad enough they get bullied in school, but it's not right they should have to put up with it at home!...

"...We kept running into them out at the dam. We didn't plan on meeting them out there. It just worked out that way!......And they're really good kids, Mom. They wouldn't hurt anyone. They've never been in any trouble......They just wanna be together!......And, umm...

"...Hey, Matty!......You can jump in here whenever you want!"

Matt knew Tim's silly attempt to get him talking had serious undertones.

Both boys talked in turns, each inserting something forgotten, or amplifying others. Ayumi was amazed at their knowledge on the subject. They had used slang terminology in many parts, yet gave an intelligent report.

Ayumi crossed her legs at what she believed to be the conclusion of their story.

"...You boys......You're only sixteen and sooo intelligent! Yet just because you understand what Scooter is going through....that doesn't make you psychologists. I'm a doctor! We're trained to detect these things but we could never act on them. That's when we have to call in a specialist. I'm not just saying you!....I'm saying....us!....we! All of us have to be careful of playing psychologist. We can do more damage than good!...

"Now we've got to get these friends of yours help!"

"...Oh shit no, Mom!......Mr. Shelby will know that Scooter talked to someone! He'll be in worse trouble!......And me 'n' Matty could be in trouble too!"

"...Nobody has to know whom is involved. I'll talk to some people at work. We'll get the school involved. Counselors....your principal..."

She stood quickly and went for the computer desk. She grabbed a pen and notebook.

"...Now just sit here with me and give me information on all this."

She glanced out the door for a moment and listened cautiously.

"...And nothing to Gramma about any of this. She a wonderful person but she's from a different era. She won't understand. And this suicide stuff?....It'll only upset her!"

A half hour later, she seemed to put their minds to rest and assured them help was on the way. She took down names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. She asked about teachers and counselors. She drew them out into the kitchen for a snack of pie and chocolate milk.

She carefully made her way around. Glancing out into the living room.

"Shhhh!....Gram's watching her soaps. Just be careful during the commercials."

She joined them at the nook. She dug into her pie with a smile.

"You boys are wonderful......And now that we're on the subject..."

She chewed a piece of pie, organizing her words.

"...I want the both of you to never, ever be afraid to come to us for anything! And that includes you too Matt! You're every bit a part of this family just as Timmy is! You've done wonders for him......You've both done wonders for each other! You both very smart boys. Well, each in your own way. Ken and I always said you complement each other.

"We're both so thrilled at Tim's tutoring. We're so happy about your involvement in the science club and being so excited about it. And we're very proud of you wanting to help out in the GSA. It's important! Lots of people out there think it has no place in schools. I don't agree with that. It's very important. It deals with support and tolerance! Too many people out there think it......well, it promotes a certain lifestyle! That's not it at all...

"I was doing some research on the Net last night. I ran into some of those teen suicide sites. The parents were talking about it. Oh dear! I have no idea how they can even function out there! Just remember, boys....nothing....and I mean nothing is so bad you have to take your life for it! It might feel like it at the time. You could be so unhappy or depressed that you aren't thinking very clearly. There will be dozens of answers right in front of you, yet you can't see them...

"I just want you to know we'd be very happy if you came to us......We'd be happy! We'd never lecture or yell at you....no matter how bad you thought it was. You'll do that, won't you?"

Both boys nodded with slight smiles. On an aside, Ayumi had noticed Tim squeeze Matt's hand on the table for a second as they looked at each other.

"Well......I don't think that went so bad......I'm not going to drag it out of them. I'll let them do this at their own pace. They probably have to talk to each other first. In fact, it may be awhile still. Sloooow and careful. I'll just keep dropping hints. I'll make sure they know the door is open..."

Matt sat at counter in the science lab. He had a number of electric and mechanical parts covering the surface. He kept checking a soldering iron to see if it was up to temperature. Other students sat or milled around, each involved with their particular projects. Some consulted each other. Tim approached him, adjusting his safety glasses on his nose.

"...Matty!......I keep tellin' you this is too complicated. Well, maybe not if this was due at Christmas! These have to be in on November first!"

Matt studied the pile of tiny motors, gears, pulleys and axles strewn over his work station. He sighed as he looked everything over.

"...The great Timothy Webster speaks again!"

He unplugged the soldering iron and leaned against the back of his stool. He held his hands out before himself.

"...I'm doin' it again, huh?......Why do I always have to make things so complicated?! Why can't I ever do something simple?!"

"...Well I still say you should do that idea you had on thermoelectric devices. It was simple and to the point. Matty! People will be impressed! Lots of people don't know you can cool things with a simple module. There aren't even any moving parts! Lots of picnic coolers work on that principle. Hell! Even communication satellites use that principle for cooling!"

The first Thursday of October found the GSA meeting room full. In fact, many more parents had attended than any of the students had expected. It was indeed standing room only.

Jim, who'd been elected president, stood at the front of the room. He was sixteen and seemed a bit thin for his height of six feet. He wore dark slacks, suit coat and white shirt without a tie. He wasn't the more imposing John, yet he seemed to have an air of self-assurance about himself. He eyed the clock on the wall waiting for the six PM start. He walked back and forth consulting with students in the front rows.

Matt and Tim sat beside each other.

"...Shit!....Shit!" Matt whispered to him, "I sure hope I don't have to give a report in front of this crowd!......Let's give our seats up and hide in the back of the room..."

They stood and noticed a couple nearby. They were obviously parents. They appeared worried, embarrassed and a bit shy. Both boys silently waved them to the vacant seats.

At five minutes of, Jim took his position at the front of the room. He resettled his wire glasses on his nose. It hadn't been a nervous reaction. It seemed more a professional air.

"...Umm......I believe we can start now...

"...First off......I'd like to welcome all you parents who have come here today. This is what we need. And I'm truly amazed at the turnout tonight ......Many of you have been invited personally by our principal or Mr. Heath here, our sponsor this year."

At this point a tiny woman entered. She obviously felt self-conscious and nervous. Mr. Heath stood and nodded to the room as he simultaneously guided the woman to his seat. He took up a position near the door.

"...The first thing I want to make perfectly clear to everyone of you parents that the GSA isn't here to advocate any particular lifestyle. We don't recruit, teach, brainwash, trick or use Satanic rituals to get your children into a gay lifestyle...

"Yes!......We are advocates!......We're advocates of peace, love and acceptance! We don't believe in excluding someone simply because of their sexual orientation. Or any other reason for that matter."

He held his hand out toward the students in the room.

"...I'd say over half of us here are straight! We're allies. We're so tired of the hate, discrimination, the violence, the bullying....All of it! It really has to stop."

It was here the pretty African-American girl made her way out of a back room, her arms full of fliers. She went forward and set the fliers half on the edge of the desk. As she released them, they fell to the floor and half into the metal wastebasket.

Jim quickly ran up to her and pushed her.

"...You stupid, clumsy, black-assed nigger!" he yelled, pushing her to the floor.

One could feel the entire room tense, as several gasps were let out.

Jim held out his hand, smiling. He drew up the smiling girl from the floor. He hugged her from behind as he kissed her cheek.

"This is Cinnamon, people. And we had that set up from last week....Did we scare you?"

Both picked the fliers from the floor and set them on the desk. Cinnamon drew up a folding chair and sat. Jim scanned the room in silence for a moment.

"I heard a few gasps come from back there......Can you imagine someone being treated like this today?! We could go to jail for this today. It's called hate crime! Well, it still goes on! People are still being treated like this! Only the names are queer, faggot, dyke and quite a few more that I'll be polite enough not to mention! And there's bullying, beatings and suicides because of it!..."

He placed his hands in his pockets as he paced a bit.

"I've talked to....well, a few parents. I keep hearing the same questions......'What did we do wrong?' 'Why did our child choose this?' 'How do we cure this?'"

He leaned against the desk.

"...You haven't done anything! There isn't any right or wrong involved. Being gay.... homosexual....isn't something you learn, catch, choose or get inoculated against! You can't teach it. You can't catch it. And if someone's gay......you can't cure it!......Very simply put, it's what you are!"

He held his hand out, scanning it across the room.

"How many of you people remember the day you sort of sat down with yourself and literally decided you were going to be straight? I don't recall doing that! I never made what you'd call a decision on it......In fact, I always just knew I was! I don't recall having a choice in the matter! It's what I am!"

"...It's unnatural!......It's against God," a male voice came from the back of the room.

"...Is it?......So should we all get together and stone them? Maybe set them on fire? I suppose we could machine gun them. Or would you prefer a more humane method?"

Jim walked fearlessly toward him between the desks.

"...Exodus 21:7 says it's perfectly okay to sell your daughter into slavery......What are you asking for her?......I'm interested...

"...Have you ever worked on the Sabbath? Exodus 35:2 clearly states you should be put to death for that! Now should we all reconvene on the track field to stone you? Should we shut down all hospitals and old age homes on the Sabbath?....Let them all shift for themselves? Maybe we should shut down our power plants too! I think that would make things a bit chilly around January.....And the fire companies and ambulance services! Shut down all police departments?....Oh the thieves would love that! Maybe you'd like the entire military shut down on the Sabbath. What a great time for an enemy to strike first!..."

He reached out to feel of the man's lapels.

"...Nice suit!......What is this?....Cotton-polyester?......That's a garment made of two different threads! Did you know that's expressly forbidden by God?!...

"You hair is kind of short. Did you just get a haircut lately? That's forbidden by Lev. 19:27!"

He slowly made his way back to the front of the room as he talked.

"...You see......You don't want a democracy in this country......You want a theocracy! And you want yours! Suppose the Jewish faith were to come to political power....or the Muslim? We can beat female teachers with steel cables! We can beat male teachers for teaching female students! We can arrest teachers for telling student's we have a sun-centered solar system......Do you really believe the sun orbits the earth?!"

He leaned up against the desk again.

"...We aren't here to create controversy! We're here to promote tolerance! 'Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you.' 'Judge not....least you not be judged.' You don't have to agree that a gay person is right. Just leave him alone!...

"I'm no Atheist! I believe we're all going to stand before God on that last day. I just don't want to have to explain why I was hating fags for Him! I don't want to have to explain why I bullied some defenseless little kid into suicide!"

He approached the bulletin board on castors which had been moved to the front of the room.

"...Umm......Before I even continue here..."

He turned his back on the board.

"...After our meeting here....we're asking parents to stay awhile. Get to know each other. Talk with each other! I think you'll learn a lot. Even teach others something. Check out our bulletin board back there. We've got all kinds of websites that parents will find interesting. You can communicate with people all over the world!......And if you aren't all that handy with computers, I'm sure your kids will help connect you. You can work with people your own age. And you'll have the anonymity of the keyboard! You don't have to feel embarrassed. You can make up a nickname for yourself. You're not alone! Lots of parents feel so alone. There are millions of you!"

He turned his attention back to the bulletin board.

"Last year, before summer vacation, we asked kids to check local and national media for these items. And well, some of these are computer printouts!

"Three Local Youth Rob Convenience Store!......Two kids were thirteen and one was fourteen!......They used a gun!......Youth Dies in Shootout With Troopers!......A fifteen-year-old died in a drug raid......Teen DWI!.....Two girls dead! Two disfigured for life......Fourteen-year-old Rapes Nine Year Old Girl!......Hey, I could go on for twenty minutes here just reading the headlines off!......Now none of these reports say if these kids were gay or not. If they were, I'm sure that would have been mentioned too!"

He rotated the board around to its opposite side.

"Youth Build Special Bikes......Two boys loved to build and repair mechanical things. They had a friend in school who'd lost the use of his legs. They built a special bike for him that was operated by hand pedals! People caught the story last year. Now they have a company making special bikes for kids with handicaps!......Youth Repair Handicapped Vans....A small town could no longer afford to maintain their handicapped vans for the aged. Even two churches had to cut back on the use of their vans due to budget cuts. Four boys suggested to their automotive repair instructor that they could do the job free! Now all the vans are kept in repair for free......And the kids are getting a good hands on education!......Youth Save Elderly Man's Life!......Two boys and two girls saw an elderly man collapse outside a store. People just walked by, assuming he was a drunk homeless person. The kids did CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He survived! None of the kids had grandparents still alive. They sort of adopted him! They call him Grandpaw! They take him everywhere now. Visit him. Help him with his shopping..."

He walked away from the board as though he were about to change the subject. He then appeared to take second thought. He pointed at the board.

"Oh!......Did I tell you?......These are all gay kids!"

He returned to the board and rotated it around twice.

"Which side of this board would you want to see your kids on?! For me, there would be no question which side I'd want my kids on!"

He made his way to the desk again and reached for a flier.

"As I said at the start here. People......Parents wonder if they did something wrong. No! And it's all in here about why. Parents wonder why their kids choose this lifestyle? Who'd want to, with all the prejudice and bigotry out there?......If they had a choice!......This flier will explain that..."

He walked to the front of the desk and sat on it, reaching for another, rather thick handout.

"This pamphlet is written by psychologists. If any of you out there think you're going to cure your child......please read this first. It's written in lay terms. ANY group that tells you it can cure homosexuality is only reaching for your wallet while keeping you distracted! Don't believe it for a second!......Not only are you getting ripped off......They can do some awful psychological damage to your children......Adults have tried some of these cures and they'll tell you a few stories of their own. This pamphlet has websites in the back here. Go to 'em! Read 'em! Well, especially if you like horror stories!"

He rose from the desk and returned before the green chalkboard. He paced twice before it. He looked up over the people.

"...Once again, people......We're here to promote tolerance! We don't advocate any particular lifestyle. All these students here have heard it before. And I want to thank you all again for showing up here today. We're encouraging parents to not only talk with their kids, but with each other as well. If you have a gay child......you're not alone!...

"We have quite a full agenda this year, right up to Christmas. We're going to have adult speakers here. Lots of 'em!......Psychologists from the university......Clergy from around the local area. And lots 'n' lots of parents with gay children! We aren't forcing any agenda onto you parents......We're only asking you be a bit open-minded. We hope to not only see you back here, but we're hoping you'll get other family members in here. We're hoping you'll mention us to your friends..."

He paused for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. His arm raised as he pointed toward the bulletin board at the rear of the room.

"After our meeting today......I'd like you all to check out our bulletin board back there...

"I'm sure you can all see the title of one article there called Five Parents. These are four mothers and one father of gay children. It's their stories..... Children that are no longer with us......They all committed suicide!......Twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old!....They were all bullied, hounded, beaten, kicked, thrown into lockers....down stairs! They had food thrown at them and made fun of because of their orientation. The stories are heartrending!......If you can read all five of those short stories without drawing a tear......you aren't human!......You're cybernetic! You're a machine! If at least one of those stories doesn't cause you to cry, I'd suggest you don't come back here for any of our meetings!"

He paused here for effect as he leaned on the desk again.

"...Us students are here for YOU'RE children!......We want to stop the violence. If you aren't concerned enough, then there's nothing we can do to help......What is soooo wrong with wanting to stop all the violence and discrimination?! We're wrong because we want to protect your children?!...... Why?!...

"We aren't all gay here!.....Yet we welcome all students into here. We give them hugs! We try to encourage them! We try our best with the school to see YOUR children are safe. And we're not just here for the gay community! We welcome in kids on crutches, in wheelchairs, ones who are call fat or skinny or don't have designer clothes. We welcome in all the geeks and nerds and anyone else who's labeled as different in some way.

"Maybe you are highly opposed to us and the gay community......Just read those stories back there and put yourself in those parent's positions...... Suicide!....DEAD!....Children gone forever!......What's it called again?......Twenty-twenty hindsight?! Lots of those towns, lots of those school boards were in the media! They were all over the Net! Nobody would comment! Everyone stuck their heads into the sand! Nobody had any answers! Does that have to happen here?! Would you like our town all over the Net for not doing anything to promote tolerance?! How embarrassed would you be if some kid here hung himself because of intolerance?! And stop and think, people......How would you feel if that was your child?!...

"...Well, MY kid isn't gay!......Don't be so sure of it!......Us boys don't wear nail polish and wiggle our hips when we walk!......The girls don't wear leather jackets and work on their cars in the auto hobby shop!......That is so....so stereotypical!"

He paced along the chalkboard, his hands in his pockets.

"When I was little......there weren't too many boys in my neighborhood. Well, at least not my age......They were lots older...

"...I played with a little girl next door......And yes! We played house! I played with her dolls!......And the next day, we'd be in our sandbox......playing trucks 'n' cars! The next day we'd play house again, and the next day cowboys and Indians!......There weren't any gender roles in our playing. In fact....what lots of adults call play isn't really play at all! It's a learning experience. We didn't grow up gay because of it! Because we weren't gay! We didn't learn to be!...

"...I recall several years ago a friend of my father was worried because his boy was eighteen and hadn't even been out on a date yet!......So?......We mature at different rates. Some girls may be boy-crazy at twelve or thirteen. Some boys may not become interested until they're twenty! It's all in your body chemistry! His boy entered college and became very popular with the girls! Some kids are sexually active at thirteen!......This boy hadn't had his first experience 'til twenty!......There's no real explanation for it! It's what we already are!"

He leaned on the desk again.

"...Mark Twain said, 'Denial ain't just a river in Egypt!'......Please people. Let's not have any tragedies like this around here......Let's not have our school....our town, show up on the Net because of another suicide! Let's not be put on the map as some backwater swamp village that has no tolerance. I don't know about you people, but I'd be embarrassed...not proud!...

"Just don't live in a state of denial......And at the same time......don't overreact either. What happens, happens! You are what you are!...

"Please, people......Talk with each other......Read about this stuff! The Net is full of information!......Well, the Net is full of MISinformation as well. Hopefully we can all work together to prevent any tragedies like this from happening around here.

"And think of the impact on other students as well. There are, no doubt, lots of students who have never even considered any of this, one way or the other! Do we need a suicide to wake people up?! To die such a horrible death is one thing. Think about what they must have been thinking leading up to it......To die feeling so unloved, so persecuted......to die thinking there was just no other way out!......I think that would be worse than the actual dying itself."

He paused as he glanced around the room. He glanced at Matt.

"...Matty!......Come up here and help me out!"

Not only did Matt pale, he saw Tim pale beside him. It was nearly as though he had to join him as well.

Matt made his way up to the front of the room. He felt his legs weaken. He glanced at Mr. Heath beside the door. As he glanced back at Matt, a large smile crossed his face. It was nearly a smile of confidence.

Matt took several papers from a notebook and used pushpins to attach them over the articles on the bulletin board. He looked up and sighed.

"...Hello......I'm Matt Meadows......And I have the position around here of doing research for the GSA. I search the Net for any kind of news items that I think will be of importance to us. Lots of this may seem very......well statistical. It may not even interest you. I've got all kinds of....well numbers up here. I realize you may not be able to see these very well. I post these at every meeting for the students to look at afterward...

"These sheets are full of numbers!....percentages!....probabilities! They may not interest you. I love this stuff!......I think it just appeals to the geek in me!"

Several adults chuckled at this. Matt relaxed at bit more as he pointed to the sheets.

"...These are numbers printed onto a sheet of paper. Yet, they're so much more than that! It's what they represent......These are people here, not numbers......They're not just high school students. These numbers could represent your families! The numbers up here could very possibly be your children! They also could be your brother or sister! They could be some aunt or uncle. They could be a co-worker or neighbor. Even a very close friend!

"I've had the misfortune of having a friend who I seriously worried about the fact he was considering suicide. He was well....outed accidentally. His family has separated him and his partner. He was well......quite out of it! His parents think that if they keep him away from.... 'That evil boy,' that he'll stop being gay."

He held to the desk before himself and shook his head.

"...I have no idea where people come up with this stuff! He was already gay before they even met! The poor little guy was just sobbing in my arms!......I felt like there was this big.... rock on my chest!......He's a good kid!......No drugs. No alcohol. No gangs. No bullying. He just wanted to be with his friend! Why is that asking for so much?!..."

He looked up again.

"...Well, we got him some help......I have no idea how that's turning out. Some of the teachers and counselors here in school are helping. I think even Principal Emerson is involved. I can understand it's kind of a personal matter and it can't be discussed...

"It's just that when one of our classmates....our friends....commits suicide....It affects us all! We all hurt for him. Their families hurt! And there's no excuse for it!..."

He glanced at Jim.

"...Earlier......Jim mentioned he was no Atheist......I don't think any of us here in the GSA are!......The young people today aren't necessarily leaving God......They're leaving the church! They leaving the hate behind!...

"The religious people are persecuting the gay community. They're told how they're going to burn in hell!......They're call perverts and deviants. And they just make people's lives so miserable and unhappy and so....so tortured! And then there's more suicides! And all these religious people point out they're doing that because of their miserable, unhappy lifestyle! Well, if course it is!......THEY made it that way!"

Matt held up a photo, printed up on glossy paper. It was a young boy with fluffy blond hair and blue eyes. He had a shy smile on his mouth. His young face radiated innocence and love.

"...It doesn't make any difference who this kid is. His name isn't important. Let's give him a name, okay?......And let's say he could be a girl as well. And let's name him....umm.... What's the name of your son or daughter?......That's who will call him or her! Think about that!"

He pinned the photo to the bulletin board.

"...Yeah! We'll say this is your son or daughter.....I only wish I had the other photo of him!......The one from the coroner's office!......The one with the noose around his neck!....With his eyes bulging and his blue tongue hanging out!"

A woman in the rear gasped as she put her fingertips to her lips.

Matt wiped his eyes on his sleeve.

"...I......I just don't understand it!......That's some people's idea of love?!"

He returned to the desk and waved several papers in the air.

"...Statistics!....Numbers!....Percentages!......We can look at this stuff for years! What we need to do is look at that boy up there!"

He shook the papers again, rattling them.

"..THIS is what THAT is all about! Kinda makes these statistics a little more meaningful, huh? Let's not lose sight of that! I wish I could find more pictures to back up these numbers! The bloodshot eyes! The slashed wrists! The bloody bullet holes in little kid's heads!"

A sob slipped from him.

"...I'm sorry!....I....I just don't want my friend ending up like this!"

He sobbed again, wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

Jim walked up to him and held his shoulders. Cinnamon stood and hugged him, rubbing his chest. Several adults dabbed at their eyes. Matt sobered himself.

"...And......And I guess that's the end of my report..."

He started to the back of the room. He quickly glanced toward Mr. Heath. He had a broad smile. His left hand gripped his lapel in a fist, his thumb up. Students reached out to him as he passed. They touched a hand, an arm or patted his back. He took his place beside Tim again.

"Matty!" he said in a forced whisper, "That was great!"

He hugged him deep and kissed his cheek.

An hour after the meeting, most all the adults were still milling around talking. Many studied the bulletin boards and wrote down web addresses. Some were paired in distant corners, talking in hushed voices. Some studied the artwork on the walls. Matt hadn't seen what he thought were any disgusted expressions.

An adult man approached Matt and shook his hand.

"...Son!......That was one hell-of-a great presentation!"

"...Umm......Thank you, sir....but I'm still a little embarrassed about that."

"Don't ever be embarrassed because you want to protect your friend! That was great! I don't think there was a dry eye in the place! I don't know if that was a set-up on us parents or what, but I'm sure you got your point across!"

"...Well......that sure wasn't on purpose. I kept seein' my friend on that picture. It really hurt! He's a good kid..."

"...You all are! Everyone of you kids here are great! And lots of us are very proud of you. Sometimes it takes the kids to get the adults thinking."

Several minutes later, Matt noticed who he recognized as the tiny woman to which Mr. Heath had given his seat to. Her short hair was nearly all gray, yet she didn't appear old enough for it. Her face held a tired appearance, her body a nervous energy. She had appeared to Matt as one who'd have left as soon as the meeting ended. She seemed to have a shy demeanor about herself. She was talking to Jim. Again Jim resettled his glasses in an air of professionalism. It was obvious he was listening to her sincerely.

"...And I still say that thirteen is way too young to know if you're gay or not!"

Jim drew up one hand and held his fingers to his chin in a moment of thought.

"...Umm....I'm sure you'll recall the day you became interested in boys. Sixth grade grammar school?....seventh grade junior high?......In fact, perhaps you even had a crush on a cute boy when you were eight or nine...

"I'm sure you may have mentioned a cute boy in your math class to your parents?"

"...Oh yes! I guess they thought it was a bit cute."

"...Uh, huh!......And did they ask you if you were sure you had a fancy to him?"

"Well of course not!"

"...Well if boys and girls can feel attracted to each other, regardless of age, why can't it be the same for the gay children?......Why does the age have anything to do with it?"

"Well......Well....because! They're way to young to....to understand those....things!"

Jim shrugged with a smile.

"...Well I'm sorry, but I don't understand your reasoning behind that. If I were attracted to boys at thirteen....twelve....eleven! I'm sure I'd understand it quite well!...

"...I dated a girl last year. I didn't need any age limit or experience to know that's what I wanted. Well, it didn't exactly work out. I'm more the geek, studious type and she was looking for the quarterback!......I've just got to find a bit more nerdy girl."

"Well......That's perfectly normal!"

"...And being gay, isn't?......We all know our, well....persuasion at about the same age group. Whether your gay or straight doesn't really have anything to do with it, Mrs. Ace."

"Mrs. ACE?!......Holy shit! Is that Toby's mom?!"

Matt quickly positioned himself beside Jim.

"...Umm....umm......I'm sorry, ma'am......I couldn't help but hear Jim call you Mrs. Ace.... Are you Toby's mom?"

She smiled warmly.

"...Well, Zack, yes!......I have no idea where the Toby came from...

"When I was a little girl, my aunt had named her dog Toby. Perhaps that's why I have a bit of an aversion to it..."

"...Umm......Well I'm kinda a friend of his. We eat lunch together."

"...Oh dear! Is that so?......And might you be Tim or Matt?"

"...I'm Matt," he replied, pulling Tim closer by the arm, "This is Tim! Toby's great! He's a friend of both of us!"

Her eyes seemed to go distant in thought for a moment.

"...Could you be who Zack called....the River Kids?"

They both chuckled.

"...Well, I think so," Matt continued, "I mean, that's where we met Toby and Scooter."

"...Scooter?!......Oh dear!"

"...Yup! You don't have to worry about Scooter, Mrs Ace......He's a real nice boy! He doesn't do all that drinkin' or drugs or anything. He's really good! He's just a little depressed right now. I guess he isn't allowed to see Toby anymore. He was really hurt! I mean he was cryin' and everything. It's too bad Mr. Shelby hates gays so much. In fact, me 'n' Timmy here are really worried about him. We're scared he's gonna do something stupid!"

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

"...Yeah....I think that's why Matty kinda lost it up there today. We're really scared for Scoot. He just sounded like he just didn't want to go on! My mom's a doctor. I guess she got him some help. Oh! Poor little Scoot! We're really hurtin' for him. Him and Toby just look so CUTE together!"

"...Cute?....Oh my..."

"...Sooo....Mrs. Ace," Jim continued, "What does your husband think of all this? Does he believe as you?......That you can't know for sure until a certain age?"

"...Well......Oh my!....I don't know! He was very quiet about things for about a week. Now he's talking again, but about everything else! It's as though Zack never told us anything!"

Jim nodded his head with a slight knowing smile.

"...Right! This is called the denial stage. Some people come around after a bit....Yet others?......They go on and die never admitting to anything."

He took her by the arm and led her to the desk. He reached for one of each of the handouts.

"...How well are you with a computer?..."

"Oh my!....I don't believe I'd be able to turn it on!"

"...Read these. And give them to Zack to read. He'll get you connected to the proper sites in the back of these pamphlets. You'll be able to communicate with other parents such as yourselves. You haven't done anything wrong and neither have they! Nobody will know who you are or where you live....unless you tell them! You'll find you aren't the only ones out here with gay children. You aren't alone! You want Zack happy, don't you?"

"Well, certainly!"

"Then just listen to what he has to say. Talk it over with others. You'll see that people out there who've accepted their children's orientation are so much happier! Next month we're hoping to have the adult speakers here. We'll make sure you're contacted. Bring your husband along. Bring Zack along."

"...Oh my!......I don't believe I'll get Dominick to go along with this! Yes! He's in denial. I don't think he'll even want to listen to any of this."

"We'll get Zack's counselor to talk with him. I'm sure even Principal Emerson would be happy to call him..."

He drew her to the front of the room in an obvious confidential manner.

"Mrs. Ace......We've found that the students here which are the most prone to bullying and harassing, have very intolerant families. Even the adults agree with us that all this intolerance is learned. This year we want to go out to the parents, the families. We want everyone to be a part of this. I'm not saying your intolerant. Never! You're just a bit confused as to what's going on in your child's life......Umm....Just a sec!"

He went for the desk and opened several drawers. He reached into the last and drew out another booklet.

"...Read this! I understand Zack was....well, what we call outed accidentally. When kids go to their parents about this....it's called coming out......Lots of kids would like to do this. They don't want to live a lie. They want to be honest. They want to share this with their families...

"This booklet is about six teens who came out to their parents. Unfortunately, three of them end in tragedy. The families who were the least tolerant! I'll never understand such....such hatred some parents have for their children! And all because they're something which they didn't choose to begin with. It's just simply who they are!......They had no control over it. Burn in hell?......Read this book and judge for yourself. I say we'll see more hate filled parents in Hell than their gay children."

"...Oh my!......Well, I'll see what I can do here..."

It was several days later as Matt entered the cafeteria. He went for his usual table. Tim sat there, staring at the cover of a thick trigonometry textbook. He had no tray before himself.

"Holy shit Timmy! You feelin' okay? Yer white as a ghost!"

"...Remember Mrs. Jenkins saying how we tutored those six kids and how well they improved their scores?..."

"...Yeah! She was really happy!"

"...Well, I just came back from Principal Emerson's office!"

"Holy shit! You in any trouble?"

"...No......YES!......They want me to tutor a whole class now!......I mean stand up in front of a classroom! And there's gonna be seniors there and everything! There's gonna be like fifteen or twenty kids in there! I'm gonna die, Matty!......I'm gonna be shittin' my pants! I'm gonna be pukin' my guts out all over the place!......I won't be able to get two-word sentences together!......I kept tellin' 'em....'No!....No!' And they just kept right on going!"

"I'll be there for you! They did say that's okay, right?"

"...Well....umm....yeah, but this is really big Matty! Teaching seniors trig?!"

"You did it for me! I had no problem learning!"

"...Well, one-on-one....fine! But a whole class, Matty?!......I might as well just dig a hole and lay down in it. All I'll have to do is wait for my heart attack!"

"Don't get so hyper!"

"Hyper?!......I'm dying here!"

Matt organized his tray and opened his juice container.

"Look......I'll make a deal with you......I'll teach the trig class!......And you can give the GSA report next month in front of all those adult speakers!"

"...Shit too!"

"...Well, I still feel like an ass with that last report I gave! All I could think about was little Scooter! Poor little shit. He's still hurtin'!"

"...You did great! Okay you got a little emotional. So what?! It really struck people Matty! You're right about all those facts and figures. They're boring! But you put a face to those stats!....I think you really reached lots of people there!"

"...Well, that was a little embarrassing...

"Hey! Where's Toby?"

"He'll be here shortly. He's making his rounds. Lots of kids are playing go-between for them. They kinda talk to each other through their friends..."

"...Umm....So they're kinda like....out now?"

"Well what do you think, Matty?......They can't hardly hide something like this!"

"How are people takin' it?"

"I think most everyone's cool with it. I think the kids hate Mr. Shelby most! He sure is one mean bastard! Yeah!......Keep Scoot and Tob apart and they'll turn straight! Where do these assholes come up with this shit?!"

"...Yeah. And with all this research I'm doing, I'm seeing lots more of it. It really hurts. I'd really like us to come out, Timmy......but I can't trust my dad! He'll go nuts! I know it!...

"Mom will take it hard......She'll cry. She'll ask questions. 'Where did we go wrong?' 'How do you know?!' The whole thing!......But I really think she'll come around. I'm just scared we're gonna end up like Scoot 'n' Tob! Holy shit! Not being able to see you?! It's bad enough we only see each other on Friday and Saturday nights!"

"Yeah......umm......I sure hope you don't mind I kinda quit the over-nighters. I know my mom found us that one night! We gotta cool it a little. If we aren't careful, we might not see each other at all!"

"...I know where your comin' from. And yer right! My mom's actin' a little weird lately too..."

Matt set his plate before himself and pushed the tray aside. He munched a hamburger. Tim kept paging through the trig textbook.

"...Tim?......I think I just got an idea!...

"Remember Michelle from the GSA?"

"Oh yeah!......Little doll!......I just couldn't believe she's gay! Too feminine, too dainty, too girly!"

"Are you stereotyping?"

Tim closed the textbook and nodded.

"...Yeah......I think I am. I know it's not right. Hey, we don't act girly, do we?"

"...I keep tellin' you I like boys!....Not boys who look like girls!"

"...Thanks......That's a relief!......Hee,hee."

"Well, I got an 'e' from her the night I gave my report. She loved it! She said the same as you......It reached people...

"Well, she doesn't exactly have a girlfriend as such. But she is friends with that....that.... Oh! Who's the thin girl with the little pixie haircut?"

"Angel?......She's a little doll too!"

"...Yeah, but I think that's a nickname..."

"...No it isn't....That's her real name!"

"Really?!...

"Well, I was thinkin'..."

"I keep tellin' you....you think too much, Matty!"

"Just listen to this...

"...Michelle isn't out to her family yet, but she says they're gettin' wise. Now suppose we all get together, the four of us......We could pretend to kinda like....date. Follow me here?"

"Oh shit! Meeting people again!..."

"Tim! They're cool! And they aren't the really sweet things they make people believe! They can both be real hellers! In fact, Angel can get down 'n' dirty! They're cool. They aren't into all that Emily Post crap!"

"Is Angel out?"

"Hell too! She says she has a real religious family! They'd really come down on her! She really thinks they'd disown her! She doesn't think anyone is wise to her, but she has to be careful."

"Well......Maybe it would take the heat off all of us..."

"I'll 'e' Shelly tonight and see what she thinks of it."

"...Toby!" Tim called out as he sat beside Matt.

"...How's it goin', Tob?!"

"...Umm....Okay I guess."

"Anything new out there on the circuit?"

"Well, I guess Scooter's doin' better. I think Principal Emerson talked to his dad. I think he was trying to get him into the GSA meeting. Same with my mom. Dad wouldn't go. He don't say too much. I can tell he don't like me 'n' Scoot together. I mean he didn't actually say it, but I can tell..."

"We were hoping you'd be there with your mom..."

"I wanted to go. She said I was too young to understand any of that stuff."

Matt and Tim only looked at each other.

"...Umm....Matt?......Did you give some kind of talk on suicide?"

"...I already told you I did!"

"...No you didn't. You said you gave a report!......Did you start cryin'?"

Matt sighed as he reached for his juice container.

"...Yeah! I did!......I was really embarrassed about it, but everyone said I did good."

"...Umm....Well....Did you give my mom any papers or little books?"

"...No that was probably Jim. We have lots of handouts to help parents with this stuff."

"...Well....umm....My mom had me connect her with some of those sites in those papers. I don't know what she read, but she sure seems to be thinkin' lots lately. I heard her talkin' with my dad last night......Well, I didn't exactly hear them. I just caught certain words 'n' stuff. I really think she wants him to go to that next meeting where you're going to have the adults give some talks..."

He took a large bite of a slice of pizza. He arranged items on his tray. Matt noticed his tiny, delicate hands. He glanced up at his face. He didn't appear happy, nor did he seem excessively morose. All Matt saw was an innocent thirteen-year-old boy. He felt his heart ache for him. He glanced down at his hands again.

"Just this summer, Scooter was holding one of those hands. They looked so happy together. Scoot's dad said he didn't want his boy hanging around with fags!......Poor little Toby. That had to hurt! I don't know how they're doing this all alone...

"Those hands. They were rubbing Scooter's back out there in the river. They just looked so doggone cute together! All they wanted was to avoid the bullies and be together. They just wanted to be left alone. They just wanted to be happy......Oh shit, this hurts!"

"...Well, anyhow," Toby continued, "I heard them talking about my cousin. That's my mom's sister's girl. I think she's gay. I never knew! I heard them talking about it. I don't see her much. She's sixteen. She's had this one girlfriend like forever! Well, I guess they were at some party and they....umm....kinda got caught in bed or something. I couldn't hear it all real good...

"Anyhow......My mom wanted to take her sister to the next GSA meeting where you're going to have the speakers. My dad kinda threw a fit. I don't think he wants anyone in the family knowing about me 'n' Scooter."

Matt saw a tiny tear run down his cheek. Toby quickly wiped it away with his sleeve.

"...I just don't understand why people hate us so much!......We ain't rich....me 'n' Scoot ....We don't have fancy video games....We got old, used bikes. We don't have lots of things that other kids have......but we never needed that stuff! We were happy together without all that stuff......That's all we wanted....Just to be together."

Matt rubbed his back.

"We'll see what we can do. There's something that's gotta happen shortly!"

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