Age of Discovering

by Rick Beck

Chapter 14

Big Ideas

Glenn put down the acoustic guitar next to the amp. He leaned back on my pillow again. I had the idea I could lie down beside him, but I didn't want to push my luck.

I stayed in the chair at my desk. I wasn't as apprehensive as before. My parents met Glenn, giving their final approval for me to go with him to Seattle. I never imagined it would be that easy.

Glenn had been on good behavior since the day we ran out of gas. It was a pleasant change. The new Glenn was easy to be around.

I never wanted the old Glenn to surface. I'd be happy if the old Glenn didn't make an appearance until after we returned from Seattle.

"This Glenn is way easier to be around," I said, revealing my thoughts.

"I've been trying to be good," he said.

"You've been fine. I still remember when you weren't."

"I'm always a handful," he said with a smile.

"That's what I mean. I prefer it when you are just nice thoughtful Glenn."

"You've got to cut me some slack, Gordon. I'm trying," he said.

"I know and I appreciate it. This Glenn I like a lot more than spastic Glenn," I said.

"You've seen all my sides. I think the jump the gap Glenn has retired. I'm not saying I've grown up, but you're right about my hands and face. Damaging either could be the end of my career," Glenn said. "I know you're a good influence on me, Gordon. You're more mature than I am, but you've got to remember, I've never had a friend I've kept for more than a couple of years. The only real friends I've had were the boys in Germany. It was easier letting go of them. I'd left their world before I left Germany. I'd refocused on the violin by then, after breaking my arm. I want to make friends and be a good friend but it's hard for me to feel like I've made a long term friend. It has a lot to do with why I am like I am, Gordon. It's easier when I don't care."

"I like you... a lot. We have music in common. I've never had a long term friend either. I made up my mind a long time ago to get school out of the way before I got involved with another boy. I'm close now. I've never met a boy I like more than I like you."

"I'll try not to do anything to make you sorry you do," he said, smiling at me once it was said.

He had a nice smile. I liked it, but than again, I liked everything about Glenn. My smile was automatic.

He was hot!

"I've never gone away with another guy my own age before. I've never been anywhere. I can't wait."

"It's not something I've done before and I've been everywhere."

"Being alone with you..., I mean really being alone, makes me wish we were leaving tomorrow," I said.

"I'm walking dynamite, Gordon, and you can't wait to light my fuse. No one knows what comes next. Not really. If you found a nice…. guy, and set out to become… friends, you'd expect a certain… outcome. Safe outcome. No matter who you love, Gordo, there is a chance you'll get burned. Dynamite can go off unexpectedly. I'm not sure how I feel. I'm anxious to find out. It should go fine, but...."

"I don't get it," I said. "I know all that. I don't accept you're dangerous. You're no more dangerous than anyone else. You're just more realistic about it. What's going to happen is going to happen. I know there are risks in life. If I'm going to get blown up, I want to give it my best shot."

"Maybe I'm being over cautious. Maybe I'm young and still figuring it all out. I've got one thing pulling on me, wanting me to do good things. I've got other forces pulling on me to be dangerous Glenn. I can't say how it is going to turn out," he said. "You're a nice boy, Gordon. I like you. I wouldn't want you to get blown up with me. I'd like to grow up without blowing any one up with me."

"I'm a big boy," I said. "I've seen your wild side. I think you're becoming more mature because you have a reason and you're making an effort. I'll help if I can."

"When I was really young, I was such a dork. 'Little cute Glenn!' I didn't like it. I became daring do anything Glenn. That's who I was before I realized I had this thing inside me. Both forces are pulling against one another, Gordon. At times I don't know which one will win out," he said, closing his eyes while he spoke.

"The violin is your future. Your life is your own now. Any one who listens to you play can hear your genius. You've simply allowed yourself to be a crazy kid for too long. In the end you'll be playing the violin. This is where your childhood ends, Glenn. You leave it in Seattle, after you play. You'll come away a professional musician with some idea of how your future will look," I said.

"I've thought that should be how it goes. I've thought it won't be anything like that too," he said. "I've begun to feel like Seattle will define me. This is a turning point for my life. I'll come away with Preston's approval or with nothing more than fine memories of our first weekend together."

"Let's hope both come true. We'll come away with fond memories and Preston will reveal his plans for your future after Seattle," I said. "You know what you're going to do in Seattle. Once that spotlight hits you, you'll take off for the clouds. You'll fulfill your destiny."

"The last time, when we went to Berlin, it was something I was expected to do. It was easier writing it off as something I owed my parents and Herr Gorman. They arranged for my friends to come to hear me play over the Christmas holiday. It was something I looked forward to," Glenn said. "I was a little cog in a big wheel. There was dancing, singing, and music, lots of music."

"I can understand that you became a face in the crowd, but someone wanted you to play a solo there. Eyes were on you, even if you felt like a tiny part of the show."

"This time I know it's for real. This time it's about me," he said. "I need to do what's right for Glenn and I'm the only one who can decide what that is. Until I asked you to go with me, I had been dreading the trip in a way. I hadn't made up my mind that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I've begun to look forward to it. You're helping to keep my mind off my feelings of insecurity, Gordon. Thanks!"

"It's my pleasure," I said. "I'd like to think I'm helpful to you."

"We'll go off to Seattle and see where we end up," Glenn said enthusiastically. "Should be interesting."

"End up?"

"We'll be together for three consecutive days. If you still think I'm the neatest thing since sliced bread, once we're back home, we might be onto something. Don't you think?"

"It will go fine for you. We'll be fine," I said.

"And with that thought, it's time for me to get home. I'm glad we had this time together. Thanks for letting me see into your closet."

"You want me to walk you?"

"No, I think I can find it. Two blocks up and hang a right."

I watched him go right once he went out the front door and he disappeared around the corner of the house. He seemed different to me. He was easier to be with each time we were together.

I couldn't believe I was going to Seattle with him.

Glenn and I were moving into the same orbit.

In the halls at school, with Glenn going one way and me the other,, he would turn around, walk me to my classroom door, and dash away as the final bell rang.

There was a certain amount of charm to the attention he gave me. I waited to enter my classroom until Glenn was out of sight. This happened a couple of times the week before we left for Seattle.

In gym on Thursday we got to play volleyball outdoors for the first time in our new volleyball pit. It was a perfect day to be outside. When sides were chosen, Glenn and I ended up on the opposite side of the net. Glenn corrected the oversight by coming onto my side and asking the boy next to me to trade places with him.

The deal was made.

Glenn told me, "I only came to school today to see you. I should be home worrying about Seattle. I like volleyball too."

"Nice to see you too," I said.

After school Thursday, Glenn drove to my house to pick up my bag and the things his mother would pack in his garment bag.

As he was closing the front door behind him, the phone rang.

So much for a big hello.

"Hello! Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am. I will. Yes, ma'am. Goodbye."

"How is my mommy today?" Glenn asked.

"Your mother said…."

Glenn interrupted me.

"Tell Glenn he is to pick up the things you are taking and come straight home."

"You and your mother are the same person?" I asked. "I did see you both at the same time and place, but she never spoke while you were speaking. It could have been an optical illusion," I reasoned. "I've heard of such things."

"More like an optical delusion," Glenn said. "She's my mother. Whenever I have the car, I'm kept on a short leash. She'd have driven me if I hadn't absolutely forbidden it. It's difficult to project a mature image with your mommy driving you around."

"Tell me about it," I said.

"Oh, yes, get one of your parents to write you an early dismissal for after lunch tomorrow. The plane leaves at two forty and we arrive in Seattle at approximately seven thirty. We change planes at O'Hare, where we'll wait for a little less than an hour for the Seattle flight."

"That's impossible. We'd have to fly a thousand miles an hour. They don't fly that fast, do they?"

"Seattle is the Pacific time zone. It will be nine thirty here."

"Oh," I said.

I carried my jacket and shirt out to the car on hangers.

He put my suitcase in the backseat and the clothes on hangars went over the back of the front seat.

"Got to run. Mommy has me on the clock. I dare not dally, but if I could…," he said with a little growl in his voice. "The punishment would not be pleasant. We'll save the dallying for Seattle."

He got in the car and drove away.

His mother picked us up at school on Friday. It was a good ways to the international airport. Glenn sat in the front seat and I sat behind him. His mother reminded him about things he should remember.

"Mother, I have my name and phone number pinned inside my jacket. If I get lost they'll know how to get me back to you," Glenn said.

His mother went into the terminal with us, making certain there were no glitches that might cause us to miss our flight.

There were none. She kissed Glenn's cheek, smiled at me, and she was off for home.

We waited to board once we walked to the designated section where passengers were waiting for our flight to board.

I was a little apprehensive. I'd never flown before.

Glenn told me that flying was a lot safer than driving a car. It's just farther from the ground if you should run out of gas.

The plane shuddered and shook as we rumbled down the runway. I wondered if it was going to make it into the air, but it finally lifted off. The shudders and shakes immediately went away as the plane took a sharp angle upward as it began its climbed.

The engines screamed.

I held tightly to the armrests, wondering if anything fell off the plane before it made it into the air.

I felt Glenn put his hand on top of mine, which took my mind off the plane. When the flight attendant passed, she glanced down at where our hands met. She smiled and turned to speak to us.

"You OK, Hon?" she asked, putting her hand on my shoulder as she spoke.

She had no doubt who the rookie flier was.

"Take off always makes me nervous," Glenn said.

She could see Glenn was fine.

She moved on to the passengers behind us.

"You OK?" Glenn asked. "You look a little pale."

"Yes, I do," I said.

He didn't move his hand. It was a soothing connection.

"I've never flown before. I didn't know the plane was supposed to do that."

"Wait until we land. They drop the flaps, reverse engine thrusters, and it really shakes for a second or two. It's amazing how it falls out of the clouds and onto the runway."

"Oh, I can't wait," I lied. "You sure fall is the right word?"

He laughed and patted my hand.

"I'll keep you safe, Gordon. I'm responsible for you after all," he told me.

"OK," I said, getting lost in his eyes when we looked at each other. "I trust you. It's the plane that worries me."

He smiled and patted my hand again.

"I was never a boy scout but I am trustworthy, courteous, and kind. Trust is good but keep your foot near the brake in case I try to rush you. I don't want to do that. We may be onto something here and I don't want to ruin it."

"I'll remember that," I said, turning my hand over so he'd let his fingers get together with my fingers.

We were still holding hands when the flight attendant leaned to tell us we could unfasten our seat belts if we liked. She smiled pleasantly after looking at our hands again.

"He's new at this?" she asked.

"My first flight," I admitted, thinking it might explain the extended hand holding.

"Well, we'll do our best to make your first flight a good one. We've got good weather all the way to Chicago. Your connecting flight to Seattle is on time. You'll have a forty minute wait at O'Hare. Flying first class means we'll feed you well on this leg and you'll eat again on the Seattle leg."

"Yes, ma'am, I know," Glenn said. "You on this flight often?"

"It's my regular route. I change off from time to time but I've been on this run for almost a year. You enjoy your flight. I'll be back with a menu and you can eat to your hearts' content. You may as well take advantage of flying first class."

"That's the plan," Glenn said.

The flight attendant moved on to the next occupied seats.

"We'll eat early so the landing doesn't upset your stomach. Once you experience it, you know what to expect and planes are remarkably reliable. It's surprising how long one of these babies can fly and they can't make a car that lasts as long as the payments on it," Glenn said.

"As long as I'm with you, I'll be fine," I said. "You've done this a lot?"

"I've been flying two or three times a year since I was little. Now I'm flying to my performances. Preston's show playing a couple of times a month. I won't play all of those dates this year, but starting next year, the plan is for me to play every date. Before I started performing, I flew when my father got transferred. It seemed like a lot when I was little. We flew to my grandparents at Christmas each year and we went on vacation once a year. We always vacationed in Europe. It was usually close and inexpensive if we used military bases as our home base in a different country. I can sleep on the plane if I'm tired enough."

There was a steady hum that went with the jet engines in flight but I stopped hearing the hum after a while.

We had a choice of radio, television, or we could watch one of the current movies. With Glenn there I had my entertainment.

I got cottage cheese with fresh fruit. Man, was it good. Later I asked for chicken over rice with steamed vegetables. I was surprised by how good it tasted. First class would describe it.

Glenn closed his eyes after he ate. We didn't talk for a while. I wanted to hold his hand but I decided to save that for the landing.

"You ever think about jumping out?" Glenn asked, still keeping his eyes closed.

"Jumping out?" I asked.

"Cut it short! Bail? Cash in your chips? Off your self?" he asked.

"No!" I said. "Why would I do that? It takes a lot of work to get this far."

"Never? Not even once did it cross your mind?"

"Glenn, I haven't grown up. All I know is what I'm told. I got to figure there's a lot more if so many people hang around for it. No, it would be like walking out in the first act of a really good play."

"Yea," he said. "Don't see any future in it myself. Checking out before you really know what the movie's about seems premature. I want to fly solo before I give up the ship, you know?"

"Exactly," I said, looking at him carefully. "You'd never do that?"

"Not intentionally anyway. I read about kids who do that. I try to imagine how bad my life would have to be for me to do that. A guy I knew did it in Germany. He was just a regular guy and he did that. Sometimes there is a lot of pressure on me. I don't like pressure. Never gave any serious thought to suicide. Can't say one of my stunts might not do it for me, but that's how life goes. You never know when your time is going to run out."

"Not if you're dead you don't. Dead is pretty final," I said. "Too final for me. I'd like to think I can make a difference somehow. Accomplish something that makes a difference. One day someone is going to cure cancer. Someone will make the world want to live in peace and brotherhood. What if the kid who could do that commits suicide instead or what if he dies in one of our pointless wars? That would be a bummer."

Glenn stopped the flight attendant to get some ginger ale. I made it two.

"We're about thirty minutes out. No delays getting on the ground," the attendant told us. "It's clear and cool at O'Hare."

"That roast beef was a little spicy," Glenn said. "Ginger Ale settles the tummy. Don't want to ruin my dinner."

He laughed and his eyes twinkled. The flight attendant smiled and moved toward the back of the plane.

"You really like the fancy stuff," I said.

"What's not to like. No skin off my nose to get things I don't ordinarily get. Wait until we're in Seattle. They have great restaurants there. An incredible variety of food. Tell me what your favorite food is or what you want to try, and we'll be sure to try it," Glenn said.

"Pizza?" I asked. "Do they have pizza?"

Glenn laughed.

"Pizza? Gordo, I'll buy you all the pizza you want once we get home. How about lobster, steak, authentic Italian dishes? Lots to choose from," he said. "Italian is my favorite. I like steak. I love different kinds of barbeque. Mediterranean cuisine has wonderful flavor."

"You seem to know what's good. I get burgers and fries or pizza as a treat. I'm not picky. You can pick the restaurants you like."

"What are you going to do after graduation, Gordon?" he asked.

"Me? Find a job. I can't afford college. My parents want me to go, but they'd have to go into serious debt at today's prices. They'd been putting money away for my college, but it's gotten so expensive, I don't know if I'd be able to find a job once I finish college," I said.

"You do have music. You might give that a try, Gordon. Before committing to something that may not keep you employed as fast as things are changing these days."

"I'll find something I like doing and I'll accept whatever the pay is. As long as I like it. I'd like to keep playing in a band, but I haven't talked with my band mates to see if they want to keep the Mad Monks going for a while. If they don't, I'll have to find another band that needs a guitarist. That will be just like starting over. If I find a band with a good guitarist, I would like to play a better guitar. Learning while I play is what I did when I joined the Monks."

"On the job training. Maybe I'll run across a good band looking for a guitarist in my travels," Glenn said. "I think my parents have money for me to go to college. Of course I won't need it, unless I decide not to sign with Preston. I'll make enough money with him to pay my way through college should I decide to go later on," he said.

"Preston is totally cool. You'll like him. He hasn't tried to talk me out of being a kid yet. I like that. He thinks I should have a life and be a kid for as long as I can. Playing a prodigy a dozen times a year doesn't cramp my style and I get to see cities like Berlin and Seattle. How cool is that?"

"Pretty cool," I said.

"As long as it keeps being fun, I'll play when he asks me to play. He's given me a little taste of honey to get my attention. He wants me to know who is holding the honey pot so I'll play ball. It's not much to ask for what he is paying me."

"If you weren't worth it, he wouldn't be courting you," I said.

"He's smart. He's giving me plenty of room. He treats me like I'm an adult but he knows I'm not ready for full exposure yet. He's making a mystery out of who I am and where I am. That keeps it fun too. He knows how to foil the paparazzi. He doesn't want them showing up at my house or at school. They don't know I exist at the moment. Preston says that will change this weekend."

"'Make hay while the sun shines,' my mommy says," he said. "There's still that feeling that one day I'm going to step into the spotlight and what comes out will be like fingernails on a blackboard."

"It won't happen, Glenn. You're the real deal and that's a big deal," I said, knowing it was true.

He leaned and kissed my cheek.

"I think you may be a keeper, Gordo," he said.

We laughed.

It was obvious what was on Glenn's mind. I tried to put myself in his position, but there was no way for me to relate to what he was about to do.

"We've got to fasten our seat belts," Glenn said. "We'll be landing before long."

When I looked, the fasten seat belt sign was blinking.

Glenn put his hand on mine before they announced we were approaching O'Hare. I felt warm all over with his hand on mine. I wondered if this was what it felt like to fall in love.

One thing was for sure. It kept my mind off of the plane.

In what seemed like no time, the plane's tires screeched as they made contact with the runway. I hardly noticed, until I felt the braking system go to work. There were rattles and loud engine noises. Then the plane taxied toward the terminal.

"That wasn't so bad," Glenn said.

"No, it wasn't," I said, watching his eyes watch my eyes.

"I think they've got to get the plane ready to go back where we came from," he explained.

A couple of minutes later we were walking through the terminal, making sure we knew the way to the gate we needed next. We went to get a Coke once we knew where to go. The plane to Seattle left in 25 minutes and the only thing left to do was pee.

The takeoff from O'Hare seemed smoother. I didn't pay as much attention to it. We were soon in the sky flying west.

The flight attendant was a guy and a lot less engaged with the passengers as the first attendant was.

We did get sodas before ordering our next round of food.

This was a lifestyle I could get to like. Any time you needed food, it appeared.

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