What Else Is There?

by Al Norris

Chapter 11

As we pulled up to our house, I saw Mitch sitting on the front porch. I wondered what he would be doing here. Does he really think I'll just forgive and forget, this soon? At least, that's what I think he's doing here. I guess I'll have to talk to him to find out.

Unc pulled into the garage and triggered the door closed. We got out of the car and went into the house via the garage-kitchen door.

I walked to the front and opened the door. Taking a deep breath, I walked through the doorway and closed the door behind me. "Yes, Mitch?"

"Can we talk?"

"I'm not sure. Can we?"

Mitch hung his head, "I really fucked up, didn't I." He had said this as a statement and not a question. He raised his head and had such a forlorn look on him. A week ago, I would have had some sympathy for him. Not so much today.

I was tired. I hurt, both my face and my shoulder. My clothes were bloodied and I was worried about Jimmy. I was not in a good mood. "Mitch, while I think I would like to hear what you have to say at some point… not today. You blew me off last weekend. You've ignored me all this week. Right now, I'm hurt, I'm tired and in need of a hot shower. Please go home."

I turned around and opened the door. I stepped back into the front room, closing the door behind me. I leaned back against the door, closing my eyes for a moment. I was not gonna cry again. Yes, it hurt to push Mitch away. A part of me wanted to fall into his arms and be held by him. Another part wanted nothing more to do with him after the way he treated me this last week. I'm afraid he would hurt me again. I guess that's the whole point. I no longer trusted Mitch.

I sighed and pushed myself away from the door and the person on the other side of it. I began walking to the kitchen. Unc had made coffee and I not only could smell it, but I could also almost taste it. I really wanted a cup before I took my shower.

"You weren't outside with Mitch for very long…"

I took a sip of the coffee and sat down at the breakfast bar. "No, I wasn't. He wanted to talk but I'm just not up for that at the moment. Guess it doesn't take long to say go away."

"Understandable. You've not had the best day today."

I sighed again. "No, not the kind of day anyone would like, I imagine."

"I kinda hate to do this, but while you were busy out front, Glenn Thomas called. Dorothy and him want to get together and talk about what's going on between you and Mitch."

"Why would they want to do that?"

"Because they like you, I would guess. Mitch hasn't been acting in his usual manner and they would like to try and understand what has been going on with the two of you. So they want to take us out to dinner tonight."

"I suppose I could talk to them. But not with Mitch around. At this point, all I would end up doing is yelling at him, I'm so angry at him." I paused as a thought struck me. Yeah, that's it, I'm angry. It's not just Mitch. It's the bastard that hurt Jimmy. It's the Principal. It's Carl and everyone else like them!

"I can certainly understand that, and you have every right to feel that way. But… What do you think you will tell Glenn and Dorothy?"

"Honestly? Only what I know firsthand. No sense in bringing up what Bobby told me."

"Fair enough. I'll call them back and let them know."

"OK. Then I'm gonna go get cleaned up. Um, what should I wear?"

"How about casual nice? Not dressy, just nice."

"Sure, something to offset this blackeye? I can do that!"

"Smart ass! I'll have the steri-strips ready for when you get out of the shower and dried. Just holler."

In the bathroom mirror, my eye looked like it was gonna be a beaut! I dropped my clothes on the floor. They were probably ruined, but I'll try to soak out the blood before I throw them away. I showered, dried, and with a towel wrapped around me, I went to my room and selected what I wanted to wear. Then I called Unc to look at the loose steri-strips, and the rest of the mess I saw in the mirror.

He looked, "Let me get my razor, Peter. If we want these strips to hold, we need to shave off that eyebrow. If we don't, they will come loose every time you get in the shower or sweat."

We went back to the bathroom where Unc carefully removed the strips, shaved my eyebrow, and replaced the strips.

Uncle George said to get ready. He was gonna clean up and we'd leave when he was ready.

As I was brushing my hair, I looked at my eye again. Jeez! Bad cut on my right arm. Right shoulder dislocated. Now, my right eye is cut and turning a wonderful shade of black! What is it with the right side of my body?

A few minutes later, Unc was ready and we left for the restaurant.

A few minutes after that, we pulled into a parking lot. 'Garibaldi's Mexican Restaurant' the sign said. "What? With a name like Garibaldi, it's not Italian?"

"Nope. Despite the name, it's one of the better Mexican places here."

"Well, that's certainly confusing to the tourists!" Unc just chuckled.

We went in and Unc told the greeter that we were meeting another couple, the Thomas'. She knew them and took us to the table where Glenn and Dorothy were already sitting. She gave us some menus.

While they were greeting each other, I saw what I wanted right off the bat! Our server quickly came to the table to take our orders. The grownups all ordered raspberry mojitos. I had coffee.

"OK. I have to ask…" Glenn looked at me, "Just what the hell happened to your face?"

So I gave the Reader's Digest condensed version of what happened today. "... And that's when Mitch showed up sounding concerned when he saw me. It was really bad timing because I was seeing red at that point."

Then I told them what had gone on since last Saturday. By this time, our dinners had arrived. We were silent for a bit while we all ate.

Glenn looked up and said, "There's more, isn't there?"

"That's all I know."

"But that's not all you've been told. Someone has told you more."

"That may be, but whatever else was said, are things I don't directly know."

"Mitch never came home until Sunday morning. He called and said he met a friend from Battle Mountain and was staying the night there."

I couldn't let them see my tears, which were threatening to fall. I made a quick "excuse me," got up, and walked to the bathroom. As soon as I got behind the door, the tears rolled. I found a stall and locked myself in it. Mitch's dad had just confirmed what Bobby told me. Mitch cheated. It hurt, all over again.

It also confirmed that I had been used. Since I wouldn't let Mitch fuck me, he went and found someone who would. Any thoughts that Mitch had any feelings for me, other than as a sex toy, were completely burned from my mind. We had been boyfriends in my mind only. OK, that's enough crying over this. Time to grow up and face reality.

I unlocked the stall and went to the sink and washed my face. Then I went back to the dining room and sat down. We all finished our meals in silence. After the dishes were cleared from the table, the adults ordered coffee and I had a refill of mine.

Dorothy reached out and took my hand, "Pete, I'm so sorry my son treated you like he did. God knows…"

"Mrs. Thomas, please don't apologize. It's not your fault. Neither you nor Mr. Thomas is to blame. Parents can only teach so much, then their kids have to make their own mistakes. I guess it's one of those things that you guys always fear. Will the kids have learned enough to be good people? I think, for the most part, the answer is yes. So you don't owe me any apologies."

"You're right, Pete. I just feel so bad that he treated you this way…"

"But see? You folks didn't treat me like that. It is Mitch that owns this. And if I am completely honest, I'm at fault also. Neither one of us communicated with the other. We didn't take the time to learn about each other. We didn't become friends first."

I patted her hand and then looked at Glenn. "Mr. Thomas, I want to thank you for getting me to think about my future. Last week, I had an extensive interview with Luke, the owner of Luciano's…"

"I wondered how that turned out."

"I think it turned out really well. Luke has hired me for the summer. He is gonna help me get my certificate in the Culinary Arts. The school he pointed me to is one of the two best culinary schools in the country. Looking at what I will need, it's possible for me to earn my associate's degree in Culinary Science the summer I graduate high school."

"That's wonderful news, Pete."

"You should have seen it, Glenn. Luke had Peter do all the morning prep for the vegetables that the restaurant was going to use! Took Peter about two hours, but still, a hell of an interview to be hired as a dishwasher!"

"Yes, but I doubt Pete will be a dishwasher for long." Glenn stood up, as did the rest of us. I looked and the ticket hadn't been paid yet. I grabbed it off of the table and reached for my wallet to get my debit card.

"Pete, we can't let you pay for this meal."

"Mr. Thomas, Glenn, you reimbursed for the last meal. It's my turn."

"Peter…" Uncle George started to say.

"No, Uncle George. You said my money was mine to do what I wanted, right?"

While I was looking at my uncle, Glenn snatched the ticket out of my hand. "Point of order, young man. We invited you. We pay. Leave the tip, if you must."

"Uh… I don't carry money…" I didn't actually blush but this was embarrassing.

"Then back off, Peter. You're being a jerk again." Uncle George laid some bills down on the table with one hand while he Gibb-slapped me with the other. "Thank you for dinner, Glenn."

"Yeah, thanks. I think…" I said while rubbing my head.

Dorothy rolled her eyes, "Kids!"

I knew that it was gonna be a shit-storm Sunday morning. I had barely gotten across the footbridge when Jesse hollered out, "Pete, you need a cape if you're gonna keep crusading against the homophobes! Nice shiner, by the way."

"What the heck you talkin' about?"

"Front page in this morning's paper, Pete." Said Robert, as we started running. "Did you really tackle Jimmy's dad as he was kicking and beating him?"

"Mr. Breslin was in a blind rage. I've seen that before. If I hadn't done something, he would have killed Jimmy. What else was I to do?"

"Paper said they had to take Mr. Breslin to surgery… What the hell did you do to him?"

"I um, ruptured one of his testicles."

Tom squeaked, "Didn't you do that to Carl too? Just to stop him?"

"I only put a knee into him. I didn't kick him like I did Jimmy's dad."

"Yes but, that's two bigger guys you've taken down, Pete."

"It's called street fighting, guys. Something I had to learn at a very young age or I got the crap beat outa me."

"I don't care what it's called man. It's like, Holy Crap Dude! Anyway, the paper says you're a hero. You saved Jimmy's life at the expense of your own safety. The paper said that if everything hadn't gone just right, Jimmy's dad could have turned his rage on you and killed you!"

"Yeah, you should be proud of that shiner!"

"I should be proud of seriously hurtin' someone? I don't think so."

"From what the paper said and the little you have told us, Pete," Greg, another runner, and senior footballer said, "You had two choices. You could've kept running away or you could help Jimmy. You chose to save Jimmy. You had to hurt his dad in order to save him. That's not a bad trade-off."

"But that doesn't mean I have to be proud of hurting him." I had stopped running at this point. "You guys don't seem to understand. Mr. Breslen hit me first. I ran out of their house and Breslen started chasing me. I could have easily outrun him and ran him till he was exhausted. But Jimmy tried to interfere. That's when Breslen turned his rage from me to Jimmy. That's why I had to go back. I couldn't let Jimmy die!"

Jesse shook his head at me. "On the contrary, Pete. It's you who don't understand. Sometimes, in facing up to evil, we have to hurt or even kill those who commit evil. History is riddled with such events. Besides, this is not so much about what you did, but why you did it."

Tom took my shoulder and turned me to face him. "You should be proud of that black eye, Pete. Because it represents someone who did the uncommon thing of helping the helpless at grave risk to themselves.

"If, when you tackled Jimmy's dad, he had gotten a good hold on you, it is you who would be dead. You say you've seen rages like this before? Then you know what I just said is true. But you took that risk knowing it could get you killed, in order to save Jimmy."

Greg shoulder-butted me. "That's what a hero does, Pete."

"Fuck. I give up."

"You should. You're way outnumbered here!" Jesse laughed. "Come on, let's finish this run" They all took off, and I had to hurry a bit to catch up.

When I got home, I called and found out that Jimmy would be released from the hospital sometime on Monday. Mrs. Breslen said that the doctors wanted to make sure the rest of his bodily functions were normal. I asked about her husband and she said he could rot in hell, for all she cared.

Uncle George told me that he had to be at the courthouse tomorrow morning, but would be free the rest of the day if I needed him.

After breakfast, it was time for our usual Sunday chores. That meant yard work. I mowed the front and back lawns while Unc did the trimming.

The rest of the day was a lazy kickback and enjoyable day.

Monday at school started out weird. As I walked in, people who knew me took one look at my face and began giving me the thumbs-up sign. I was half expecting to get some razzing about my black eye and my shaved eyebrow, but no one said a word about it.

After getting what I needed out of my locker, I got to homeroom and sat down. While everyone looked at my black eye and the steri strips, no one said much about it. Mr. Whittaker walked in just before the bell rang. He took one look at me and began clapping. Within a second or two, everyone in class began clapping.

This was embarrassing. I hid my face with my arms and lay on my desk, "Oh hell!" I said softly. This was worse than having everyone just staring at me.

"Mr. Williams, please stand up." Mr. Whittaker asked. "I know this may be embarrassing to you, but it's not every day we have a hero in our midst."

Reluctantly, I stood up, gave everybody a quick wave, and sat back down. "I'm no hero guys."

"A true hero is always humble." Mr. Whittaker said. The clapping died away, thank the gods.

Many people congratulated me, in the halls and the next three classes. I finally got to the lunchroom and it was like Homeroom all over again. The loudest were those at our lunch table. My only consolation was how short-lived this stuff usually was. By tomorrow, it should mostly be done with! I hoped so anyway.

The rest of the day was more of the same. Even when I got to Gym. There were congrats, thumbs-ups, and back-slappings. And Mitch surprised me. He didn't just dress out and head out to the field. He waited around for me.

As we walked out together, he said, "It was bad enough that I couldn't have dinner the other night with you guys. In fact, I was told I wasn't welcome. Then when they came home, I caught hell from my dad. What did you tell them, Pete?"

"Your folks said that you were acting a bit off at home. And they noticed that you and me hadn't been together at all. They invited Unc and me to dinner 'cause they wanted to know if there was anything wrong between us.

"I told Uncle George that we could have dinner with them, as long as you weren't there."


"Don't you remember how angry I was at you that afternoon?"

"Yes and I don't know why. I was concerned about you, 'cause you had been in a fight and were hurt."

"But you weren't so concerned about us when you ignored me all last week. Or when you decided to go somewhere the Saturday before that, when you had said you had nothing to do and knew I was going to call after my interview. You wouldn't even return my call that last Sunday."

"I had my reasons…"

"OK. You had reasons. That's fine." I held my tongue. He had reasons, huh? "Look, we are still teammates, but that is as far as it goes. OK?" I paused for a second as his expression fell. "Let's just get practice done with." I turned away to get in line for warmups.

After about twenty minutes into practice, I had seen all I needed to see. Mitch and Jack were anticipating each other. Jack was almost as good as I was at his position. There was nothing else I could teach him. Now it was simply a matter of him gaining experience.

"OK guys. You both are doing very well and there's nothing more for me to do. Jack, you'll get better as you get more experience in the game. I'm gonna go find someone to throw some balls with. I need to start working my arm and shoulder if I'm gonna get any chance of playing this season."

Mitch looked at me, "You're not gonna coach us anymore?"

"Nope. You guys are good."

"Pete, are you gonna want to take your place back?" Jack asked.

"No, Jack. You've learned what you needed to make a good second baseman. It might take you another week or so to completely sync with Mitch. So why rock the boat?" I looked at Jack, "It's gonna take me another week or two to get back in shape. I'll fall back to second place and hope I get to play enough to earn my letter."

Both Mitch and Jack started to say something, but I cut them off. "Jack, you've earned your spot. You've worked hard to learn what it takes. Why would I want to take that away from you?" I shook Jack's hand and walked away to find someone to toss a few balls with.

When Coach Anderson called time, we all picked up our stuff and began heading to the shower block. The Coach called me back to walk with him.

"Williams, I noticed you left the infield early on today. Wanna tell me what's up?"

"Easy enough to do, coach. Truman has taken my coaching to heart. He's learned all I can teach and he's now almost as good as I used to be. Key words here… Used to be. Now I have to work myself back to the shape I used to be in. Assuming I get a good pass this week from my PT guy, I'll be able to practice batting next week. Regardless, it'll still take at least another week to get back in shape. Realistically, it'll take another two weeks. How many games will have passed before I can play again?" I shook my head. "No, at best, I'm your relief guy. Maybe I'll get to play enough to earn my letter. But not at the expense of Truman's playing."

"Damn Williams! You really are a hero…"

I interrupted, "Not you too!"

"Yes, me too!" He smiled. "Look, Williams, you've trained a guy who was second-rate at best, into being your replacement. Then you bow out, showing everyone here that the Team comes first, not your personal wants.

"Since you've come to our school, you have shown your honesty, integrity, and willingness to put others ahead of yourself for the betterment of the team. And it's not just the team. That's the hallmark of a hero. I wish I had twenty more like you."

"Coach, all I've ever done is do what I thought was right."

"What you don't see Williams, is that too many people in this life, aren't able or willing to do that."

The Coach slapped me on my back, "Get your shower and I'll have the new roster laid out by tomorrow." The Coach laid a hand on my shoulder and stopped me. "When you say you're ready I promise you, you will get your letter." The lockers were almost empty by the time I got there.

I walked out of the shower block and found Mitch waiting for me. "What do you want, Mitch?"

"Can we talk?"

"Are you gonna lie to me some more?" I kept walking.

"I've never lied to you, Pete."

"Oh? Are you still going to try and tell me you were a virgin up to that night we spent together?"


I interrupted him, "Are you going to be honest about why you ditched me that Saturday? You knew I was gonna call you after my interview. You shut your phone off and I had to call your house phone, just to be told you went out for the day with someone else."

"I had a chance to go see a muscle car show. I got excited and forgot, man."

"That's why you shut your phone off? Why you didn't return my call Sunday?

"Except for the time you tackled me during Flag Football, you've ignored me all last week. Why, Mitch?"

"I told you, I have my reasons."

"Oh yes. Reasons that you can't possibly tell your supposed boyfriend… Yes, I understand.


"So what is there to talk about at this point, Mitch?"

"Sounds to me like you've already made up your mind. Nothing I can say in my own defense will make a difference, will it?" He almost acted as if he was mad. As if it was my fault.

I was mad and I was hurt. "Oh no. You don't get to do that!"

"You lied to me. You used me. You cheated on me when we were supposed to be boyfriends. The fact that you ignored me tells me we weren't even friends, let alone boyfriends.

"In case you have forgotten, we weren't supposed to be together in order to protect your secret. Remember, you wanted to stay in the closet, while I was out to the entire world! Plus, there was the very real danger that I was being stalked by Carl's gorillas. So you didn't want to be seen too much with me, because it might put you in danger and out you.

"So no. You don't get to try and blame me for your failures.

"It's like Uncle George told me. Life is full of choices. You made one. We are not boyfriends. We are not friends, but like I said earlier, we are teammates. Don't screw that up too."

I stopped and stared at him. "Look me in the eye and tell me I'm wrong." I stood there waiting, and he said nothing.

"Mitch, you have no idea how much you hurt me. What's worse is I doubt if you even care." I could feel those damned tears beginning to leak again, so I turned away from him and began jogging home. I listened as I jogged away. He didn't even bother to call out my name.

I got home and did some cool-down stretches before I went in. Gonna need another shower I think. I'd barely closed the door when I heard, "Peter? Is that you? Come in the kitchen for a minute, please."

"Ah… I can see your talk with Mitch didn't go well." I gave Unc a questioning look. "There are tear streaks on your face, Peter."

"Yeah, he said he wanted to talk. But then he couldn't or wouldn't say why he's been treating me the way he has. So I ended up doing most of the talking. He never denied a thing. So before I made a scene, I left him standing in the street and I came home."

"I'm so sorry, Peter. But maybe it's a good thing. Now you know he doesn't really care for you and you can be free to look elsewhere… Whenever you're ready to do that, of course.

"In the meantime, go get cleaned up. We have a reservation at Luciano's tonight."

"What's the occasion, Uncle?"

"It's a celebration… At least I hope it is. You'll find out when we get there. Now scoot!"

I went back to my room and pulled out some clothing. Hmm, Monday night at a moderately upscale restaurant – Business casual, I should think. I took a quick shower and dressed. I looked in the mirror… Brown relaxed fit Skechers. Dark blue ankle socks. Light blue slacks. Tan button-up full-sleeve shirt with top two buttons undone. Dark blue blazer. Yup. Looks good.

I went back to the kitchen, "What time is our reservation for, Uncle?"

"I set it up for 7:00 pm. Is that OK with you?"

"Sure. I'm gonna call and see how Jimmy is doing. Then I'll tackle some math."

"OK. I'll be in my study until it's time to go."

I pulled my cell phone out of my backpack and called Jimmy's house. "Hello?"

"Hello, Mrs. Breslen. This is Pete Williams, how's Jimmy?"

"Hi Pete! He's still a bit groggy from the meds they gave him, but otherwise, he's doing fine. Would you like to talk to him?"

"Yes ma'am, if that would be alright."

"Hang on Pete, let me take the phone to him."

A few seconds later, "Hiya Pete! How ya doing?'"

"Hey Jimmy. I'm probably doing better than you are. Ya feelin' any better?"

"Not too bad. They gave me some pain meds. They take away most of the pain, but they make me groggy too and my brain feels kinda fuzzy. They won't let me return to school until next week, so mom's gonna be pickin' up my homework so I can at least keep up in classes."

"Oh good, I was gonna ask about that. I know about that groggy feelin'. Couldn't think straight. I hated that. Hey! Is it OK if I stop by after practice on Wednesday and Friday? That way we can go over your assignments and maybe I can help ya if you're getting stuck on any of them. Ya know how Miss Zipsey can be about bringing up stuff that's not in the book."

"That would be great, Pete. I uh, guess I shouldn't have tried to stop my dad from followin' ya…"

"Well, you couldn't have known your dad was in some kinda rage. But you're right, ya should've let him chase me. Heck, I run about seven miles every morning. He couldn't have caught me if he tried!"

"Maybe, but I was worried about what he was gonna do if he caught you! Didn't even think about him turnin' on me."

"I'm just so glad you weren't hurt worse than you were. I was scared when I got your dad off of you and saw that you were unconscious."

"Mom says you saved my life."

"Don't know about that. When I heard you yell at your dad I turned around to look. I saw you on the ground and he was kickin' you. I had to do something to get him off of ya. I've seen that kind of out-of-control rage back in my old neighborhood. It never ends well."

"Yes, but he could've turned on you. It could've been you that was killed."

"It turned out OK, though. You're not dead and neither am I."

"Thank you anyway, Pete. You're turning into a better friend than I ever imagined."

"Hey, no sweat man. That's what friends do… Anywho, I gotta get to my homework. I just wanted to check in with you."

"Thanks, Pete. I'll see ya Wednesday?"

"Yup. I'll be there right after practice. Talk to ya later, man."


We hung up and I started in on my math. Before I knew it, Uncle George was standing in the doorway. "We ready to go, Peter?"

I looked up and smiled while I marked my position and closed my book. "Yup, let's get going."

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