What Else Is There?

by Al Norris

Chapter 13

"Umm, Dad? All this reminds me that there is something I meant to tell you but forgot until now. It's what Mr. Breslen said before he slugged me."

"Oh? What did happen? We've never really had a chance to talk about that."

"We were in their kitchen and I was being introduced to Jimmy's parents. Mr. Breslin made some derogatory remarks about me. I guess he already knew about me because of the stuff in the news. Anyway, he said something about how Mr. Turner was going to fire him because Jimmy was gay."

"That's interesting. Is that when he smacked you?"

"Um, no. I left the kitchen and Jimmy followed me. We were in their front room 'cause I was headed out the door. Jimmy said something about this was how his home life was since he had come out. I put a hand on his shoulder to show I understood. That was when Mr. Breslin came out of the kitchen and saw me trying to comfort Jimmy. That's when he kind of lunged at me and punched me. He said something like I was to keep my hands off of his son."

"The thing that struck me at school today is that it was not the act of a father who hates their son. That was an act of a father that didn't understand his son, but saw me as a threat and wanted to protect his son from that threat! But that was where his rage was triggered. He went off the deep end and nearly killed Jimmy."

Dad was frowning. "That's all we need. More Jordan Turner!

"You could be right though. It might be interesting to know in what context Turner found out about Breslen's son, and whether or not he actually threatened to fire him.

"I'll have to get Larry and his investigators on this."

"I'm gonna go ahead and start dinner, dad. Then I have homework."

"I'll be in my study, Peter. Call me when the food is ready."

"Maybe we should get one of those triangle things like in those old cowboy movies. I could just ring it when everything's ready." I was out of the room laughing before dad could whack me.

I made a simple dinner of Mac & Cheese and Cheddar with Bacon Brats. Cleaned things up, then went to do my homework before bed.

Woke up Wednesday morning. Got my run in. Before I left for school, I asked dad if I could go over to Jimmy's house after practice to help him with his homework. He said that he was OK with that as long as I didn't stay too late. I said I'd try to be home by 5:30.

At school, I was in a hurry to get to the coach's office, so I could turn in my medical slip. Coach Anderson was out somewhere else, but Coach Jonas smiled as he read the slip.

"That's got to be good news for you, Williams."

"It sure is, Coach. At least I can suit up at next Saturday's game, even if I only sit on the bench!"

"I'll make sure Anderson sees this. Thanks for stopping by." I left the Gym and hurried to my homeroom.

The rest of the school day was fairly normal. The "Hero" stuff was much more subdued, which was good!

At lunch, I was able to find Mr. McNaulty in his new office.

"Mr. McNaulty, could I ask you a few questions about Dr. Danbury?"

"I'm not sure what I could or should say about him."

"He was supposed to be at his jury selection, yesterday. He didn't show up. It appears that his house was empty like he moved."

"That's not good. I know that he was looking to take a better position at another school."

"Do you happen to know where?"

"Why do you want to know, Mr. Williams?"

"Mr. McNaulty, the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest. Whatever else he did to me, his running just makes it look worse. Despite what my uncle wants, I don't feel he deserves to have the book thrown at him. He got angry with me and made an error in judgment. That shouldn't mean his whole career is destroyed. This running away will do that."

Mr. McNaulty just shook his head. "Williams… Peter, I don't understand you. You have every right to be mad at him, for what he did. Now it looks like you want to help him."

"Well, um, yeah I am mad, but um, it's not so much that, I just don't wanna see his whole life destroyed. His family shouldn't have to pay for what he did."

"Commendable attitude, but there are always consequences for what we do. Many times those consequences affect others around us. This is why we try to teach, think before you act. Look at what you did the other day. Your actions affected several other people, didn't it?"

"Yeah, I suppose…"

"Peter, for what it's worth, his attorney has already had this conversation with me. I told him what I knew."

"OK. Thanks for at least talkin' to me."

"You're welcome." He looked at the paperwork on his desk. This was clearly a dismissal, so I left his office and went to my locker to get ready for my next class.

Later, at practice, I worked on my throwing and catching with the second string. Coach Jonas worked with us on the smaller ballfield.

At first, Coach had me trade-off with the shortstop, Mark Critchfield. Mark was pretty good, but nowhere near as good as Mitch. As a second baseman, he just didn't get the position. It wasn't intuitive for him. So we concentrated on him seeing and making the plays.

After practice, I showered and walked over to Jimmy's house. Mrs. Breslen was outside, puttering in the front garden. She must have heard me walking up the sidewalk. "Hi, Pete. Jimmy is inside on the couch waiting for you. Just go right in."

"Thanks, Mrs. Breslen." I opened the screen door and went in. "Hey Jimmy!"

"Hi Pete. How was practice?"

"It was good. Whatcha been doin'?"

"I've been able to get all of my homework done for this whole week. Pretty boring here with nothing else to do!"

"Sheesh! What are you going to do for tomorrow and Friday?"

"I've got a list of extra credit for 5 of my classes. I guess I can work on that."

"If you've got all your homework done, why am I here?"

"Um, to keep me company? No one else has come over or even called."

"Crap. What about your friend Aaron? Hasn't he at least called?"


"Damn! That's cold man." I sighed. "Don't ya have any other friends?"

"I thought I did… I guess I just learned who were real friends."

"Wait till I get to school tomorrow. Everyone at our lunch table is gonna get a piece of my mind! Any of them could have at least called to see how you were." I heard the screen door open, so I turned to look and Mrs. Breslen had just come in.

"Pete, would you like a snack? I know you just got out of practice, so you must be a bit hungry. Besides, I was going to make Jimmy a snack, anyway. Just as easy to make some for you too."

"Sure, if it won't be too much trouble. I can only stay about an hour and then I have to get home."

"No problem, Pete. It will just take a minute."

Jimmy and I were going over his homework for the last three days when after a few minutes, Mrs. Breslen called us to the kitchen. She had made some tuna salad sandwiches and set out a couple of chocolate chip cookies to go with them. She sat down and was nibbling on a cookie as we ate our snack.

I took a chance and asked the question that had been bugging me, "Mrs. Breslen, do you have any idea why Mr. Breslen's boss would want to fire him?" Mrs. Breslen stiffened at my question. "I'm sorry if my question is out of order, but what happened the other day is a bit mystifying to me."

"What do you mean, Peter?" Uh oh… Her use of my full name was not a good sign.

So I told her what I suspected. How Mr. Breslen's reaction to seeing my hand on Jimmy's shoulder was more of a man protecting his child from a threat. When I said that, Jimmy looked at me like he couldn't believe what I had just said, while Mrs. Breslen just sighed.

"Micca loves Jimmy, Pete." Oh good, I was back to Pete instead of Peter, "He's just had a hard time understanding that his son is gay. This anger of his has been building, ever since he mentioned to Jordan that Jimmy was gay."

"Ah, so about the same time that Carl was arrested?"

"Come to think of it, yes about the same time. Is that important?"

"Maybe. I'm not sure. Do you know what Mr. Turner told your husband?"

"Micca was told he had to get Jimmy into reparative therapy. We looked into that and conversion therapy. On the surface, they seem different but when you dig deeper, they are about the same. There were little or no real successes, conversions, or changes to sexual identity.

"I guess we had until summer to get Jimmy into treatment, or else Jordan was going to fire Micca. Micca is the head mechanic for Turner Farms. Around here, if Jordan Turner fires you, you're as good as blacklisted."

"Wow! My Uncle said he has a lot of influence, but I didn't think Turner could make or break a family. May I tell my Uncle about this? I don't know if it can help, but it can't hurt."

"I don't know what good it will be, but go ahead and let George know. Now I have a question for you. After what Micca did to you, why would you or your uncle want to help us?"

"Look, I can see where the stress that your husband was under could lead to a mental breakdown. That doesn't mean he shouldn't pay for what he did. What concerns me more is the power that was behind the stress.

"I know it's none of my business, but the other thing that concerns me is you guys. Without your husband's income, what are you guys gonna do?"

"We'll be alright for a while. The house is paid for and we were putting the old mortgage amount into our savings. I can take some remedial classes over at Great Basin and get recertified for nursing. That's something that's always in demand and that's what I did before Scooter came along."

"Um, yeah… I don't expect that your husband is going to be around for a while."

"OK… Enough of this serious stuff. Why don't you two go back to looking over Jimmy's homework? Shoo now!"

I started to gather our plates, but Mrs. Breslen just shooed me away.

So we went back to the couch and finished looking over his work. I gathered the homework that he needed to turn in and put it in my backpack for tomorrow. As I began to stand up, Jimmy took my hand in his. "Pete, could I kiss you, before you go?"

"Aw Jimmy, I'm not looking for that kind of friend. To be honest, I just got out of what I thought was a relationship, only to find out all he wanted was to use me. That hurt me when I found out." I could see by the way he looked at me, that this hurt him. "Jimmy, look, I like you, and I want to be your friend, but I'm just not ready to get that close to anyone else right now. Please try to understand."

Jimmy leaned over and quickly kissed my cheek. "That's the least I could do, Pete. Thank you for saving me and being my friend."

"Um, you're welcome Jimmy. I really gotta go now. I'll be back Friday after practice."

I got up and shouted, "Goodbye Mrs. Breslen!" as I walked to the door to let myself out.

I got out to the sidewalk and just shook my head. He really has a crush on me. I'm starting to wonder if this is a good idea. As I walked toward 9th Street, I figured I would just wait and see what happens on Friday. I just hope that Jimmy will let us be friends.

Do you ever get that feeling that you are being watched? As I neared the corner of Oak and 6th Street, that's what I felt. I'm normally a fast walker, so I slowed down a bit to look carefully around me as I crossed the street.

I was walking on the north side of Oak, facing oncoming traffic. Ahead of me, about 200 feet, was a parked car with some people in it. While I couldn't say for sure, I thought the driver looked sorta like Carl's friend, Jeremy. I crossed the street to be on the south side, just to give myself room to start running, if I needed to.

As I got near the car, its doors opened and Jeremy and two others, whom I didn't know, got out of the car and started toward me. I turned around and began running back to the 6th Street intersection. I could hear some yelling and a couple of seconds later I heard car doors slamming as I made it back to the 6th Street intersection without slowing down, I raced around the corner heading south towards Water Street.

I made it to the alley between Oak and Juniper when I heard a car behind me. I didn't know if it was their car or someone else, but I wasn't going to stop and find out. I cut into the alley and saw a parked car by a garage about 30 feet ahead, on the south side. I angled over and ran to the front of the car, and over to the corner of the garage. I skidded to a stop, dropped my backpack, and got on my belly to peer around the corner of the small building.

Even though that parked car blocked some of my view, I could still see enough of the alley. If a car or anyone on foot, came down the alley, I would see them.

After about three minutes, I figured they hadn't seen me duck in here. I began to get up, so I could get to my phone and call for help.

"Son, who are you hiding from?" My heart skipped a beat and my head snapped around to look behind me. There was a middle-aged man with a bemused look on his face, standing between me and the house this garage obviously belonged to.

"Sorry sir, there were three bigger kids chasing me. I was just trying to get away from them."

"Why were they chasing you? What did you do to them?"

"I haven't done anything to them. Explaining why, is a long story. I'm sorry to have trespassed, sir. May I go?"

"You were about to call someone. Who did you want to talk to?"

"Um, my uncle."

"Whose your uncle, boy? And who are you?" Shit! This wasn't getting any better. I stared at the man and wondered, for a moment, if I should just run. If I did, I would have to leave my backpack here… No, it's got Jimmy's homework in it. I couldn't do that.

"My name is Peter. My uncle is George Williams."

"Ahhh… That explains everything. Hold on for a moment while I make a call." The man pulled his phone from his pocket and made his call. A few seconds later I heard, "Hi George. This is Tom Kowalski." … "Yeah, it's been a while." … "Hey, I've got a kid here that says he was hiding from some thugs. Claims he is your nephew." … "That's right, he says there were three of them." … "Nah. No need for that. I can bring him home." … "OK. See you in a few minutes. Bye.

"Peter, As you heard, that was George. Grab your stuff and as soon as I tell my wife what's going on, I'll take you home."

"Thank you, Mr. Kowalski. You must be friends with Uncle George?" I sorta followed the man back to his house. He opened the back door and hollered at his wife.

"Hey Jan! I'm going to give George Williams' nephew a ride home. I shouldn't be gone long." He didn't wait for an answer and turned around and we walked toward his car… The one in the alley that I sorta hid behind.

"We're more like business associates. I'm a mining engineer and consultant. I inspect some of his local mines to ensure that they are safe and shored up properly." He used his fob to unlock the car and motioned me to the passenger side of the vehicle.

"You've become quite the celebrity here in town, especially for someone who hasn't been here for very long."

"Believe me, Mr. Kowalski, it has not been by choice. I would much rather have remained anonymous."

"Yeah, I suppose you would. I have to ask though, whatever possessed you to come out to the whole school?"

"It was a point of honor."

"Honor? Howso?"

"Before this year's baseball tryouts, Carl Turner was already spreading rumors that I was gay. That all stemmed from my going to one meeting of the Diversity Club at school. I just wanted to see what it was about, but Carl got it into his brain that the only reason to go to a meeting of that club, was 'cause you were gay.

"The Friday before tryouts began, the coach called me into his office wanting to know if the rumors were true. I didn't exactly answer him. Instead, I sorta sidestepped the question and asked him what he would do if he had a gay player. He told me that if the player made the team, it would only matter if it affected team play.

"On the next to last day of tryouts, Carl walked through the locker room yelling how he didn't want any faggots on his team, and shoved me into the lockers, causing a bad cut on my arm and the back of my head. They had to take me to the ER where they put four stitches in my head and fifteen in my arm. The police had been called and they arrested Carl.

"Only they never booked him. His daddy picked him up at the station. Oh boy, that really pissed Uncle George off!

"Anyway, I figured with Carl on the loose, I was gonna catch even more crap from him, and remembering what Coach Anderson had said, I showed up the next day at the final day of tryouts. I figured I had shown everyone what I could do, so I gave the team a choice. I admitted I was gay and they could either have me on the team or if they were uncomfortable, I would leave. Guess I had proved myself valuable enough, and they didn't care if I was gay or not, so I'm on the team."

"So coming out to the whole team, that's how the school found out?"

"I suppose it would have worked that way. None of us had counted on all the news people reporting what had happened, or that they would have interviewed a few teammates who said what happened that Saturday at tryouts. That's how the whole school, and I guess all of Elko found out I was gay."

By this time, we were pulling into the driveway at home. Mr. Kowalski shut off the engine and walked with me into the house. As soon as we were inside I called out. "I'm home!"

Dad came out of the kitchen smiling and shook hands with Mr. Kowalski. "Hey George! I found this wayward kid hiding in my yard. I thought I would bring him back to ya."

"Howdy Tom. Peter? Do you have homework to do?" I nodded. "Then best get into it. There's no need to hurry, I thought we could hit Odeh's, for some Falafel and Baba Ghanous, tonight.

"Tom, care for a beer before you head back?"

I didn't hear what Mr. Kowalski said since I had gone straight to the kitchen and was spreading out my books so I could get my homework done.

At Odeh's that evening, I had their Falafel platter with lamb and instead of a bed of Hummus, I substituted the Baba Ghanous and included some Pita to sop up the leftover Ghanous. It was delicious. Dad had the same but added a side of Tabbouleh. Of course, no Mediterranean meal was complete without Turkish Coffee… At least in my mind.

As we enjoyed our coffees, Dad started the conversation, that I knew was coming, "So, Tom told me how you met. The thugs are still after you, huh?"

"I guess so. It's just that after not seeing them in the last two weeks, I had hoped it was over. Especially since Carl is locked up."

"Was it that Jeremy character?"

"Yeah, Jeremy Souter. He's a junior and is sixteen. I don't know who the other two are, but I can find out."

"Tomorrow's Thursday. Talk to your buddies at school, find out, and get me their names. As soon as you know who they are, call me. Meanwhile, I'm gonna give Farley a call."

"Damn. I was hoping we wouldn't need to get the police involved in this, Dad."

"That would be nice, Peter. But they have threatened you. Now they are actively chasing you. As good as you and I think you are, there's three of them, against one of you. I'm not gonna see them beat the crap out of you, just to prove your masculinity.

Dad's expression became determined. "Look, son…" He sighed. "Up to now, I've pretty much gone along and done things your way. We gotta be a team here, Peter, and I'm the Captain. So now we're gonna do it my way. I hope that Farley will have an idea or two on how to proceed. But, if he doesn't, then I'll deal the cards myself, and see where they fall."

Looking at his face, I could see that he meant every word he said. My new dad was deadly serious.

Nothing special happened at school Thursday morning. When I explained what I wanted to do, I got a pass from Home Room to take Jimmy's homework around to his teachers. After that, it was just the normal routine, until lunch.

I had finished eating and was talking with Jimmy's friend Aaron, "So, why haven't you guys called Jimmy or gone over to see him? He's feeling lonely and like you all have abandoned him."

"I can't speak for anyone else, but I thought Jimmy would need some time to heal."

"For someone who's so damn smart, you can be pretty damn dumb! You need to stop thinking so much and start doing some feeling! How would you feel if you had gotten beat up, spent a couple of days in the hospital, and none of the people you thought were friends stopped by to see how you were? Then you came home, and still nobody you knew called, or came over to see you? Wouldn't you feel abandoned by the people you thought were friends?" I shook my head. OK, maybe I was laying it on a bit thick, but I had his attention, along with everyone else at the table. I noticed a couple of them had their phones out and were texting. I hope it was to Jimmy.

"I've never looked at it that way, Pete."

"Well, you should. What if it was you that was injured?"

Aaron started to respond, when his eyes shifted, looking behind me, "Um, Pete? I think trouble is coming your way." Before I could turn around and try to see what Aaron was talking about, a voice came from behind me.

"Williams, somehow you got away from us yesterday. We aren't done with you yet, faggot."

I turned around as I stood up. Jeremy and Carl's other two thugs stood there. "Carl's in juvie because of what he did, Jeremy. You guys wantin' to join him?"

"Oh, I can guarantee after we get done with ya'll, ya won't be talking so high and mighty. Faggots like you don't deserve ta live," he smirked.

"Jeremy, you're dumber than a herd of cows in a rainstorm!" Tom called out from the other end of the table. "Threatening someone…"

"Let's go, guys. Whittaker is heading this way." One of the other guys with Jeremy called out, interrupting Tom.

As they walked away, I turned and saw Mr. Whittaker in the middle of the cafeteria, watching the trio. I sat down and spoke to the table at large, "Anyone know who those other two guys were?"

"The Beefy blond dude is Bob Berger. He's a junior and played JV football last semester." Tom offered. "The other guy is another junior. Mark Scofield, I think his name is. He's always been a bully like Carl."

"Thanks, Tom." I keyed in the names and sent a text to dad. The 5-minute warning bell sounded, so we all grabbed our stuff and headed out.

Just before I got to my next class, my phone pinged with an incoming text. I looked at it before I entered the class and had to put my phone away, "come straight home," is all it said.

As I came out of the shower block from Gym, I found Tom and Robert there, waiting for me. "Pete, we heard that Jeremy and company chased you yesterday. We'll walk you to the footbridge. Just to be safe."

Tom then asked, "So what happened yesterday?"

"I went to Jimmy's place after practice to help with his homework, since we share four classes together…"

"Yeah, those damned AP classes." Tom butted in.

"Yeah well, if I take the right classes I'll earn an AS degree by the time I graduate high school, Tom," I smirked at him. "Anyway, when I left I got about five blocks from his house when Jeremy and friends saw me. They were waiting for me in Jeremy's car and they started chasing me. I was lucky, that I saw them first and was able to make it into an alley and some guy's backyard before they cleared the street corner. They couldn't find me."

I didn't explain everything else that happened, so the conversation moved on to other things. When we got to the 9th street footbridge, I thanked my escorts and I ran the rest of the way home.

I went around to the back, did some cool-down exercises, and entered through the kitchen door. At the breakfast bar, sat dad and Officer Farley drinking coffee. Officer Farley raised his mug at me and nodded saying, "So when are ya gonna make it legal?"

"Huh? Make what legal?"

"George was telling me you were gonna be adopted. When's the happy day?"

Looking at dad I grinned, "Um, when he gets off his butt and gets the judge to set a court date?"

"With that smart-assed remark, maybe never!" Dad snarled.

"Best watch your mouth, Pete." Farley chuckled.

"Nah. This time he's just barking." Faster than I thought possible, dad was off his stool and I was in a headlock getting a noogie. "OK! OW!… Kings X!… I give! I'll be good!"

"You best be," he released me. I quickly jumped back.

"For now," I retorted, rubbing my head. "Hey, just before I texted you the names today? Jeremy and his goons threatened me at our lunch table."

Dad lost his smile. Officer Farley quit chuckling and sat straight up. "Oh? What happened, Peter?"

"He told me that he wasn't done with me and that faggots like me didn't deserve to live. His problem was that he was dumb since he said it in front of seven witnesses."

"And you're not worried about that?"

"Well yeah! But if for some reason I end up in a beat-down, we'll all know who did it, even if no one sees it."

"Doesn't this scare you, Pete?"

"Officer Farley, you have to understand, before I moved up here, I was scared for over four years. Scared that someone in my family would find out I was gay. Scared of what my mother would do. Scared of what my uncles down there would do. I was scared I would end up dead at the hands of my so-called family.

"In the short time I've been up here, Uncle George accepted me for who I am. He loves me. I've made many new friends, who all accepted me and stayed friends when I came out. Hell, the whole school knows I'm gay. The teachers at school, for the most part, accept me. You didn't know me from Adam, Officer, yet even you accepted me. It is like the difference between night and day living up here.

"Am I worried? Yes. But scared? Nah. Not anymore."

"Remarkable. I don't know many grown men who could take that kind of pressure for that long, Pete. But that's why I'm here today. Hopefully, George and I have devised a plan that will work. There will be some risk involved…"

"Every day since I knocked Carl into the dirt behind the Maverik, it's been risky."

"Well, if this works out, those three thugs will be behind bars."

I locked eyes with Officer Farley and chose my words very carefully. "Tell me what I have to do, Farley."

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