So Cal Summer 69

by Flip McHooter

Chapter 27

The four of us guys silently got up and marched through the open door into Enzo's dad's huge, wood-paneled office. This guy must be super-important, because his office had large windows on three sides of the big, wide room, overlooking downtown Pasadena to the south and the foothills to the north. In fact, you could see all the way up to the TV towers on Mt. Wilson. The room was spotless, not like the dirty hallway with its overflowing ashtrays and sticky floor.

Polished oak was everywhere. Leather chairs with big wings and a large puffy sofa flanked his giant oak desk. Nothing, not even a tiny little thing, was out of place and, surprisingly, the top of his desk seemed rather empty. No personal effects or pictures, only an old black telephone, and an expensive looking leather desk set. Plus, some fresh flowers in a towering vase sat on the corner. It was a big arrangement, and fancy, too, with exotic flowers that I'd never seen before. Kinda like a Rose Parade float scootin' down the Boulevard on New Year's Day. That must have cost a fortune, I thought to myself. The flowers smelled good, too, like when you went to your grandma's house.

"Sit. There," Mr. Ferrari ordered, pointing to two chairs and a cushy sofa in front of his massive desk.

We did, silently, because we didn't have a choice.

Glaring at each of us for a second, he cleared his throat, straightened his tie, looked at his fingernails and finally stared down at his son. "So, what's this about, Enzo? Actually, before you answer me, why don't you introduce your friends first, then tell me what this crap is about?"

Enzo stood up, and pointed to Kenji first, undaunted. "This is Kenji. I think you've met him before. He's my swim partner. He's been over to the house lots of times."

"Hello, Kenji. Nice to see you again, son," Mr. Ferrari said with a slight nod. I was pretty sure he didn't remember the guy.

"You too, sir. It's good to see you again." If anything, the little guy had some serious etiquette going on.

"And this is Ryan Miller," Enzo said, pointing to me. "You probably remember him from school and Little League games. He lives at the end of Ridge Top, around the corner from us. They had that situation with the cops last night."

"Yes, of course. The police." He stood up and stuck his big paw out for me to shake. I jumped up, and he grabbed my hand, and when he squeezed it, I thought I was gonna do a flip, he was that strong. How come he didn't shake Kenji's hand, I wondered?

"Hello, sir," I mumbled. Man, this guy was big. Way bigger than my dad.

"Looks like you're growing into quite the young man. I bet you have beautiful ladies coming out the ying-yang. The last time I saw you, you and Enzo were in the elementary school pageant playing Indians and Pilgrims. And if I remember correctly, your dad's Wiley Miller. Works at the big bank down the street?" More of a statement than a question. And what a memory.

"Yes, sir. That's him." I wasn't about to tell him about the 'pretty ladies'. Geez.

"Nice fella. Haven't talked to him in months. I'll have to give him a call soon, maybe play a game of darts down at the pub. There's always some need around here for another banker. Tell him old Crash said hello."

"Sure." Like I was going to do that. All of a sudden, I was beginning to dislike this guy big time.

"And your mother. She's very pretty. How is she?"

"Um, well, the usual. But she's okay."

"Well, tell her hello from me too, will you?"

"Sure." What a scuzz, boning up over my mom. Geez. Now I seriously didn't like him.

"And this is Jake. I don't remember his last name," Enzo said, finishing up the introductions and turning around. "He moved in next door to Ryan a couple of months ago. Into old man Bailey's big house."

"Jake, Jake Mariano, sir. Pleased to meet you," he said, standing up and shaking the enormous man's hand. He didn't seem that intimidated and was actually pretty comfortable with this thundering guy and his immense ego. Damn. I loved that foxy dude.

"Hello, son. Another sturdy young gentleman. Although, you do need a haircut. Maybe you can take Ryan with you," he said, looking at me for a second and then back to Jake. Now that I thought about it, Enzo's hair was pretty short. I wondered if it was Crash or his mom who made him keep it that way. "Why do I know your name? Your face looks familiar to me for some reason, too."

"Maybe because both Ryan and I had our pictures in the paper today. We witnessed that cop get attacked up on the hill behind Ryan's house yesterday, and some reporter took our picture down on the street when things were wrapping up. I didn't even know they had done that."

"Yes, that. What a Goddamn fiasco. Those cops are the bane of my existence, I'll tell you that. But that's not it and none of your concern. Let's see, Mariano, Mariano? This is probably a long shot, but any relation to Ace Mariano from down in San Pedro?"

"Yes, sir. That would be my dad," Jake said, still standing.

"Ah, good, good. I know him very well. He's a Capo, uh, I mean, eh, a business associate of mine. Had a business meeting out on his family's boat recently. Down in Redondo if memory serves correctly. A very resourceful and intelligent guy. He's definitely an up-and-comer with a bright future. I like him a lot. I believe good things will come putting our heads together."

"Yes sir, I guess. That would be my Gramp's fishing boat. Um, if you see my dad, please don't mention that we were here today. We sorta promised him that we wouldn't come down here to this part of town again. He caught us once down here, and he didn't like it. But this was something important for us to do to help Enzo, so I decided I had to disobey him. You understand, right?"

"Most certainly. I absolutely understand these matters and respect your request. I would never betray your trust. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do, even when you're wrong. Please, take a seat, boy," he said, dismissing Jake. I sure hoped he'd keep his word. "So, Enzo, tell me the reason for this meeting. Surely it wasn't for me to meet your friends? And while you're at it, tell me how you got that Goddamn shiner. I thought I taught you how to defend yourself. Merda! Who kicked your Goddamn ass?"

"Well, you did teach me, Papa, but it's more complicated than that. And it's not easy for me to explain."

"Spit it out, boy. You know how busy I am. Goddamn. Who did this to you? I hope you kicked their Goddamn ass." He sure liked saying Goddamn a lot.

"Well, not really. Okay, here goes," Enzo said, sucking in a deep breath. "Something bad has been going on with me, and the guys here figured it out, and that's why they're here to back me up. It's bad. Really, really bad."

"How bad could it possibly be? Did you off someone? Make a girl pregnant? Did you get a disease on your prick?" He started to chuckle when he said that last one.

"No sir, nothing like that. My dick's just fine, I think. It-it h-has to do with M-mamma. I guess I should show you so you can see for yourself," he said, gathering his strength. He stood up again and pulled his shorts down, only far enough to show his dad his chopped off pubic region. But not the family jewels. "M-mamma made me d-do this to myself. And she's the one that gave me the b-b-black e-eye when I wouldn't do what she wanted me to do." A single tear started to roll down his cheek, which plopped on the floor and made me look away. I felt sorry for him, even if he was a doofus sometimes. I couldn't imagine having this conversation with my dad, and my dad is great.

"What in the hell are you talking about? Holy Mother of God. This is ludicrous." He pounded his fist hard on the desk, so fast and furious that the three of us sitting there practically jumped out of our chairs, if not our skin. But Enzo stood firm. Ya gotta give that guy some credit.

Nobody spoke for a second, while Enzo's dad looked around at the four of us, waiting for an explanation. Man, you could tell he was royally pissed. If I were Enzo, I would have pissed my shorts by now, but he didn't seem intimidated in the least.

"No sir, it's not ludicrous. It's the truth. For the last few months, she's been making me do stuff to her. You know, sexy stuff, down there, with her woman parts, well, you know, with her pussy. Even after I told her I didn't want to do that with her or touch it," he said, starting to shake now. He wasn't as tough as I thought. Well, actually he was. I couldn't begin to imagine having to tell his dad something like this. "She said if I told anybody she'd hurt C-C-Chris, or say that I was t-t-trying to r-r-rape her. So I had to do what she told me to do, even if I didn't like it. But the guys saw me today in the locker room with this… chopped up hair… down there… and a black eye and they made me tell them what's going on. They forced me to come down here and tell you." He was bawling now, and tears were pouring out of his eyes and snot was running down his lip.

Enzo's dad sat there, his face getting redder and redder by the second as he digested what his son had just told him. I think the tips of his ears were about to catch fire. My balls had sucked up inside of me, I was that scared. Holy shit, Batman. Did we do the right thing, I wondered?

And then, silence. Total, fucking, agonizing silence.

The mind-numbing hush enveloped the big, dark and dank room like a cloud of poison gas. It was so unnerving that I could feel my pulse beating in my head and the veins were throbbing in my neck like they were going to rip out and I'd bleed to death right there. I was afraid that I might piss in my shorts if his dad didn't say something soon. I think we all wished we were somewhere other than this freakin' damn office. This was worse than going to the Principal's office for a paddle on our bare asses. Or getting your wisdom teeth pulled out without freakin' Novocain. Or having your dad give you the dreaded sex talk in front of your grandma for God's sake. Holy fuckin' shit. I looked over at Kenji, and he looked like he was going to pee in his shorts, or maybe start to cry. Only Buddha knows what was going through his head. He was bent over and had his legs crossed tightly. Even Jake was studying his feet for God knows what, hunched over too, and looking like he wanted to be anywhere other than this.

Finally, with the color draining from his face, Mr. Ferrari stood up, tugged his perfectly tailored suit jacket down, slowly walked around the big desk and wrapped his massive arms around his son. "I'm so sorry, Enzo. I believe you. I should have known. I should have seen it. I, of all people, should know that family comes first," he whispered into Enzo's ear, but loud enough for us to hear. "Il mio figlio di numero uno. I am so very sorry."

Enzo completely lost it then, and started sobbing and gasping into his dad's lapel, his knees bending and falling into his father. His dad, surprisingly, held him and pulled him in even tighter. The three of us sat there, wiping at the corners of our eyes, letting out sighs of relief. Man, at least we did the right thing. I thought I was tough, but this had my emotions going haywire. After what seemed like forever, but was probably only a couple of minutes, Mr. Ferrari kissed Enzo on both cheeks and once on his forehead, then motioned for him to sit back down. Enzo walked around and sat down in his big oak chair with a plop and let out a deep sigh.

"Well. This is a Goddamn predicament, isn't it?" Crash said, slamming both his palms on the big desk and scaring the crap out of us once more. He took another deep breath and silently studied the four of us again for a minute. "Okay. First of all, Enzo, you have to be commended for your bravery, coming in here and telling me about this, especially in front of your friends. I'm not sure I could do that. And I also commend you for protecting your little brother. Thank you, son." He took another deep breath. I had no idea what was going to happen next, and I was worried. "Gentleman, thank you for supporting my son. You are fine young men and winners in my book, and I owe you large for helping my figlio. Thank you from the bottom of my heart." I let out my breath.

Then he turned to Enzo and said, "Enzo, this is going to be hard for you to hear, but I must tell you the truth. When I said that I should have known that this was going on, I meant it. You see, the woman that you call your Mamma, well, son, she isn't."

"WHAT? What are you saying? Oh my God," he said, slumping deeper into the wing-backed chair.

"Your sweet, sweet, dear mother, Maria, God bless her soul, died giving birth to Chris. I was too sad and preoccupied to take care of two very young sons by myself at the time, so my Consigliere, I mean, my father-in-law, suggested that his niece could come out from New York and assume the duties of a wife and mother. She resented me because she was pulled from the man that she truly loved, Long-Finger Sal, and into my arms, a man that didn't love her and was grieving for the wife I had lost. She resented the whole scenario, and I'm afraid that she took it out on you, Enzo. I am so, so very sorry for this. I should have never agreed to something this crazy, but famiglia can be so powerful. Can you ever forgive me?"

"I guess. Maybe. But damn! Why didn't you tell us sooner? Papa…" he was crying again, tears dripping on his t-shirt. "Papa. Did you think you could keep this from us forever? What about Chris? He's never met his real mamma. Don't you think he should know the truth? I can't believe this."

"I know son, I know. And I'm so sorry. God-fucking-damn." He slammed his fists on his big desk again, scaring the crap out of us once more, rocking the big room. Would this ever end, I wondered? After half a minute, which seemed to take, like, forever, he said, "Yes, of course, I should have told you sooner, but time went by, and now you're almost grown up. Your poor old papa doesn't do so well with matters of amore. Please forgive me. But I promise you, no, I swear to you on your dear mamma's grave, that I will make this right."

"What are you going to do?" Enzo said, wiping more tears from his face with the back of his hand.

"Let's say that you'll never have to see her again."

"Oh no. NO. Not that. You won't hurt her, will you? She used to be nice, once, a long time ago," Enzo said, standing back up. "I can't believe she was pretending to be my mamma. Oh, God."

"No, no. If that's what you want, I won't hurt her. I promise. I'll send her away. Forever. You and Chris will never see her again. I'll make sure of it. I want to protect you. You boys come first, you know? How's this: Can you and Chris spend the night at one of your friend's houses tonight? Let me take care of everything, okay? I'll get her packed up and sent away, someplace far, far away. Let me be the papa that I should have been to you. I promise that I'll make this up to you."

"Okay. Just please don't hurt her. Make her go away and never come back. I don't ever want to see that woman again. And promise me you'll tell Chris about his real mamma, tomorrow."

"Consider it done, son. Again, I'm so terribly sorry," Mr. Ferrari said, coming around the desk again for another embrace. "Now, is there anything else I can do for you? I need to get back to work."

"No, sir. That's it. That's enough."

"Fine then. I'll take care of everything, and when you come home tomorrow, I'll have a professional maid in to do the cooking and cleaning and shopping every single day. I'll make sure she's a good cook, too. But I'll expect you to step up and look after Chris from now on."

"No problem. I've been treating him kinda badly, so I need to make it up to him. He's a good kid, and I don't think he knew what was going on with me. But you might want to double check that she wasn't messing around with him too. Thanks, Papa."

"You're welcome. I wish I had known about this sooner. And with God as my witness, if she was fu – ," he stopped mid-sentence and glared at us. "Well, if she was messing with Chris there will be hell to pay, I promise you that."

He ushered us out of the big office and into his waiting room. He unlocked and opened the outer door into the hallway, and yelled for Tony Boy. He showed up in a snap, practically out of thin air. Made me wonder if he was trying to listen through the door.

"Yes sir, Mr. Ferrari?"

"Give these young men each a Grant. They've earned it. And Tony Boy? Tell the fellas in the hall that these young gentlemen were never here today and that you've never seen them before. And if they spill it, they'll have to answer to me. And I mean it," he said, tugging his suit down again. "If they squeal, it won't be pretty. I mean it, and I don't have to tell you how steamed I am right now."

"Yeah, boss. I get it. But a nifty? Each?"

"That's what I said. Don't question me, Goddammit. And send in Zero. I need to hire a woman. Gentlemen, Tony Boy will see you out. Enzo, we'll talk tomorrow."

"Yes, sir. Thanks, Papa."

"You're welcome, son," Crash said, after shaking our hands one more time and giving Enzo a kiss on the cheek and another giant embrace.

And with that, we were on our way down the hall, each one of us fifty bucks richer. The guys in the dingy hallway still stared at us, but I didn't care because this had gone so well. I felt good that our mission was accomplished and everything turned out okay. Except for the woman pretending to be Mrs. Ferrari. I wondered what was going to happen to her and if Crash was capable of killing her. But then, after everything she'd done to Enzo, I didn't really care. I made a mental note never to get Crash Ferrari pissed at me. We climbed aboard the waiting elevator, and Little Johnny shut the door with a clang. He engaged the gears, and we headed down to the lobby.

"I take it your meeting with the boss went well, gentlemen?" he asked, to no one in particular, while he fiddled with the controls.

"Yes, thanks for asking," Enzo said to him, as we continued our descent towards the downstairs lobby. I don't think Enzo felt much like talking. Walking out into the reception area, we saw Lisa sitting there looking comfortable and reading some old ladies magazine on the ancient leather couch, while Jordy was engrossed in an animated game of checkers with Mamma Rosa-something-or-other. It was beginning to get confusing with all these people and their funny Italian names.

"C'mon little man, time to go," I said, calling to him. The large room was empty except for the three of them, and my voice really carried.

"We can't go yet. I have to win back my two dollars," Jordy said, holding his hands up like he was broke, sorta like the little bankrupt dude in Monopoly, Rich Uncle Pennybags. I wanted to laugh but bit my tongue instead.

"Well, that's a good lesson for you to learn. Never bet more than you're willing to lose," Lisa said, as she walked over to us.

"But that's not fair. I didn't think you'd be back this fast," Jordy said.

"It's all right, Giovannetti. You can win your money back the next time we play," Mamma Rosa Whatever said, and gave him a wink. She looked sweet, like someone you'd see on a pasta sauce commercial, but I don't think I'd want to cross her. She probably had a small .22 strapped to her thigh, or a dagger buried deep in her pile of gray hair. Hopefully, she wasn't going to be Enzo and Chris's new maid.

"Can we come back, Ry? I wanna win my money back."

"We'll see little man, we'll see. Thanks for keeping an eye out on the munchkin, ma'am," I said, waving to Mamma Rosa Linguini-something.

"My pleasure. See you soon, innamorato."

"Arriv-a-douchy," Jordy said.

We headed out the door and into the bright sunlight and late afternoon heat. I hadn't realized how cool and dark it was in there until we stepped outside. We had to shield our eyes for a second. No wonder those freaky guys wore old hats. Lisa and Jordy headed on to the car while the four of us guys had a quick pow-wow on the sidewalk. It was difficult, but Enzo finally spoke after a long silence.

"Thanks, you guys. I mean it. Holy crap! That was so hard for me to do. I thought my Papa was gonna pound me, and to find out that she's not my real mamma. Sorry to put you through all of that. I can't believe it."

"No problem, buddy. Like we said, that's what friends do. Besides, we're fifty bucks richer," Jake said.

"Yeah, man, no sweat. Maybe you can focus on swimming now and kick back a little bit," I said. "Put that crap behind you."

"Yeah, Enzo. Now that that's over, the four of us can get to know each other and be better friends. And you gotta be a better big brother to Chris. I wish I had a little brother. It's only my mom and me," Kenji said sadly.

"And you know, maybe we can get Lisa to take us to the cemetery up in Altadena so you can say farewell to your real mom. We'll bring Chris too, and that might help you feel better," I said.

"And we'll bring her some flowers," Jake added. "I bet Mrs. Kravitz across the street would give us some of her prized roses."

"You guys are so boss. That's a brilliant idea. Thanks, guys. I've got three best friends now. Hey, I've got an idea. Chris is always saying how much fun he has over at your house, swimming and running around and stuff. Think that Chris could stay with Jordy tonight and me and Kenji can hang out with you guys? Chris says you guys sleep out sometimes in your big treehouse. That sounds boss. I've never done that. Like I told you before, I wanna make it up to you," Enzo said, a huge smile on his face. "Besides, I want to have some fun for a change."

"What are you gonna do, give us blow-jobs?" Jake asked, teasing him.

"Yeah, if that's what it takes. I'll do it," he said, seriously. "I'll do anything as long as it doesn't require that old lady's pussy," Enzo said, starting to laugh for the first time in like, forever.

"It's okay, man. But don't promise something you can't deliver," I said. "I don't think it should be a problem if you guys spend the night with us. Jake's over all the time, and Chris is here a lot, too. The four of us guys can sleep out in the pool house tonight. It's bigger, and the two couches fold out and make beds. My folks won't mind. And if you wanna pay up, that's an extra boner, I mean, bonus!"

The four of us cracked up over that.

"Hey Enzo, would your dad have actually killed that lady, or was he just talking?" I asked.

Enzo didn't seem fazed by the question, and neither did Jake. Kenji was busy looking at the ground. "Nah, he's all talk when he gets pissed." But still, I had to wonder.

"Man, I was so pissed I'd probably kill her myself, and I don't even know her," Jake said, cracking us up again.

We were still laughing as we piled into the car and Lisa cranked up the engine. "Home, James," Jake called out to his big sister.

"I'm not sure I'm gonna like doing this," Lisa said, but she was joking. Like she said before, this was a better gig than working at McDonald's. She cranked up the air-conditioning and adjusted the rear-view mirrors.

"You know you love it, Lisa," I said. "Where else do you get to hang out with four studly and groovy guys likes us?"

"Hey. What about me?" Jordy wailed.

"You don't bat for the same team, little man," Lisa laughed at him. "And big deal, Ry," she said.

"What does that mean?" Jordy asked.

"It means you're not on our swim team, little man," Jake said, thinking fast.

"What's she talking about?" Enzo asked from the back-back seat.

"Nothing. Lisa's fucking with us. You'll get to know her humor soon enough, and love her like a big sister, just like we do," I said. "Hey Jordy, when we get home, call Chris up and have him come over and spend the night again. If his mom gives him a hard time let me talk to her, okay? If we have to, Jake and Kenji and I will go over there and get him ourselves. We're gonna have a swim party tonight. Does that sound outasight?"

"Yes. Oh boy. Shebang!"

"And what am I supposed to do tonight?" Lisa asked as she pulled into the busy traffic.

"I thought you had a date with Cooper," Jake said. "And honestly, I don't think a pool party with a bunch of skinny dipping guys is his scene."

"Oh, yeah. I forgot." Suddenly, she was off in dreamland again. Yup, she's got the hot's for him, that's for damn fucking sure.

We were pretty high on the way home, naturally, of course, this time, happy that our encounter with Mr. Crash Ferrari and Partners had gone off rather smoothly, and thankful nobody associated with Jake's dad had seen us (at least I hoped). Lisa and Jordy had picked up on our good mood right away, because Lisa was zipping down Colorado Boulevard, pushing the yellow lights again, while Jordy was playing Mister DJ. That little dude had the grooviest taste in music, I swear. When the 59th Street Bridge Song came on, a cheesy remix by Harper's Bizarre, he cranked it up, and we started to sing: "Slow down, you move too fast."

When we got to the line that said "Life I love you, all is groovy," Jake and I looked at each other with super-goofy smiles on our faces, and I think, at that very moment, I was the happiest and luckiest dude in the whole fucking Goddamn world. I wanted to give that foxy boy I loved so much a great big, sloppy kiss right there in the car, but thought better of it, and instead, gave him a quick wink and pinched his nipple. If anybody else noticed us, they didn't let on because everyone was too busy singing. Man, for like the millionth time in the last few weeks, my heart was doing double time, and it made me want to sing out at the top of my lungs: I LOVE JAKE MARIANO. Feelin' groovy!

Lisa was in the left turn lane, waiting for the signal to change so we could head up Michillinda towards our houses. For some reason, we were all looking out the front window at the same time when we saw a woman with perfect blond hair, piled up high and driving a red Camaro, exactly like my dad's, go speeding through the intersection. Not far behind her was a motor cop on his big Harley-Davidson motorcycle, red lights flashing and siren wailing. Oh boy. This was going to be far out, I thought.

"Hey. That's mommy!" Jordy screamed, pointing out from the front seat.

"Yeah little man, that looks like her all right. Guess she was speeding," I said. I leaned over the seat and whispered in Lisa's ear, "When you go past her, go slow, okay? I wanna get a good look at this."

"You got that right, Ry. After that speech she gave you and me the other day, I wouldn't miss this for all the fucking tea in China," Lisa agreed. "I wish I had my camera."

"Who's Fucking T in China?" Jordy asked. "Is he like their Superman?"

"That's an old expression, and besides, you know you shouldn't be saying that word," Lisa told him.

"Fuck? Why fucking not? That's just fucked up," he said, busting us up.

Lisa turned the corner when the light changed to green, and we followed my mom and the cop up the street. Both the Camaro and the motorcycle had pulled over to the side of the road a little ways up, and when we went by, we could see that it was definitely my mom. It looked like she was arguing with the cop! I sure hoped she knew what she was doing or Dad would be bailing her out of jail tonight.

A couple of minutes later we pulled into the driveway to my house. Lisa was kind of spacey. I guess she was still thinking about Cooper. I pulled her off to the side and whispered in her ear so Enzo couldn't overhear, "Thanks for taking us downtown today. I want you to know that we appreciate you driving all us guys. This was something important that we had to do, but you probably figured that out already. I can't tell you why exactly, except that I think we probably saved that guy from some seriously bad juju. I got some extra money out of this freaky thing, and if you want, I'll give you some of it so you and Coop can go have a good time. Go to a fancy restaurant or something. North Woods Inn or The Derby. I think the four of us have some serious bonding to do tonight. Later on, I'll tell you about it, but for right now, let's keep it cool, okay? Just between you and me?"

"You know, I love you so much, Ry. You have the greatest spirit. I think I've told you that before, but it's true. Not many guys your age would go out of his way to help someone who was being a jerk to them."

"Well, Jake and Kenji share some of the credit for this," I said. "And besides, he needed us."

"I don't think they would have acted like that unless you did. You took leadership of the situation. That means a lot. I love you, pussycat. You're like another brother from another mother to me, and I'm so glad we moved here, and we met each other. I wished that we had met sooner." She scooped me up and squeezed me tight into her big boobies. "I promise I'll always be there for you, little brother."

For about the millionth time today, I wanted to cry. All of these crazy emotions were starting to get to me. "Thanks. That means a lot. I've never had a big sister."

"Now, fork over the dough."

When my mom got home a few minutes later, I checked in with her to make sure it was okay to have Chris stay with Jordy and for Enzo and Kenji to stay with Jake and me out in the pool house. Like I figured, she was in a mood all right, and at first, she said no. She didn't want Jordy and Chris running around like they did last night. I told her they could stay out in the treehouse and not bother anybody. Her answer was still no. So I asked how she was doing driving dad's car. She rolled her eyes and said fine. I pushed it a little more, and after telling her that it was important for the guys to stay over with us, she finally got it that something was up.

"Spill it, Ryan. I'm not in a mood for any games right now."

"Okay, I shouldn't tell you, especially the way you gossip with the neighbors. Anyway, this is going to get out sooner or later so you might as well be one of the first to know about it. I'll tell you what's up as long as you keep it secret for two more days. Seriously, this is super important, and you can't tell anyone about it – yet." Then, stretching it, I said, "And if you do tell one of your lady friends, I'll tell dad we saw you get nailed by that cop today. Deal?"

"You saw me?"

"We all did," I said, trying not to laugh.

"Oh, my gosh. When did you get to be such a little manipulator?"

This time I did laugh. "I learned it from you."

At first, I thought she was going to go apeshit ballistic and slap me across the face like they do on TV, but surprisingly, she started laughing, and said, "That was pretty funny, wasn't it? He clocked me doing sixty-two in a thirty zone. But I lucked out and only got a warning. Wasn't that sweet of him? I think he was one of the cops up here last night going through the backyard. He was very handsome."

"Yeah, mom, that's funny. Ha-ha. If that had been me instead of you, I bet the outcome would be entirely different. I'd have a ticket and be grounded for a year. So do we have a deal?"

"Oh, all right, they can stay the night. Sweetie, you're growing up so fast," she said, and came over and gave me a hug. "Now spill it, you rat."

I gave her the abbreviated version, leaving out the sex parts since I promised I wouldn't squeal, and told her that Mrs. Ferrari wasn't actually their mother and that she did something bad to Enzo, so she had to go away. She wanted more, but I held firm. For a minute, she reminded me of Sloan begging for a dog biscuit. Shit, she was almost foaming at the mouth! I told her that after the dust settled, I'd give her the rest of the story. I figured that the next time I got in trouble, I could use that as a bargaining chip. After Jordy had called Chris, he was here in a flash with no problems from his 'mom'. My mom asked me if we could watch the little guys so she and Dad could go out to dinner and celebrate his promotion.

"Sure Mom, thanks. We'll wear them out, so they'll sleep tonight. I don't think I've told you this lately, but I love you."

"Oh, sweetie, thank you. I love you too. Now get outside with your friends. I want to listen to Julie London while I wait for your father."

Oh brother. Horn dog city.

I headed outside to find three naked teenagers and two naked ten-year-olds splashing around in the pool and having a great time. I skinned off my clothes and jumped right in. It was good to see Enzo and his little brother together, having fun for a change. If either Chris or Jordy saw Enzo's weird haircut down there, neither one mentioned it. We played a bunch of goofy pool games but the best one was when I got the volleyball and net out, and we teamed up. I got Jordy up on my shoulders while Enzo got his little brother up on his. Chris was so happy to be playing around with his big brother that he was smiling from ear to ear. After some trial and error, Kenji was able to get up on Jake's shoulders, too, although they were sort of wobbly at first. We had a blast playing keep-away and trying to knock each other off. The four of us bigger guys went kinda light on the little dudes, and they were in heaven with so much attention. Even Sloan got in the action: she normally doesn't get in the water, but when Jordy splashed her one too many times, she jumped in and started biting at his fingers. That was funny.

Finally, the little dudes were worn out and said they were headed inside to take a shower and watch some television. I guess a rerun of I Love Lucy was on that they both liked. The four of us had a couple of races down the length of the pool, and surprisingly, we were all pretty even. The hard work that Jake and I had been doing seemed to have paid off. Kenji beat us, but not by much. He was like a little Japanese torpedo. I was next followed by Jake, and Enzo was last. But considering how bad a day he had, we cut him some slack. I was surprised though when Jake did a couple of flips off the diving board that impressed both of them. My mom stuck her head out the kitchen door a little bit later and yelled at us that she was going to meet my dad for dinner someplace and that they'd be home late. She reminded me to check on the little guys in an hour or so after their TV shows were over. She also said that she had some frozen lasagna in the freezer that we could heat up and that there was plenty for all of us.

After a few more races, the four of us headed into the pool house to take a quick shower. As we were walking through the sliding glass door, Jake pulled me aside and whispered in my ear, "I think we should shave off our dick hairs, so Enzo doesn't feel ashamed, and so we'll all look alike. After all, we're teammates now, and it'll grow back in no time. It might make Lisa laugh when she sees us, but I think it's the right thing to do. What do you think?"

"I think that's a scathingly brilliant idea. They get in the way when I suck your dick anyway. You're so groovy for thinking about something like that. Let me run inside and get the electric hair trimmers."

When I went inside the house, I passed the little dudes sitting on the couch in the den watching TV. Actually, when I took a closer look they were both sound asleep, worn out from swimming and not getting much sleep last night. A couple of minutes later, I was back in the pool house, trimmers in hand and doors locked. I had a brainwave and told Jake to run up to the treehouse and get the stash box. If we were actually going to shave off our dick hairs, I figured that we should be totally stoned for this goofy event. I mean, c'mon. We'd worked hard these last three or so years coaxing on these little hairy friends.

Once Jake was back, I locked the door again behind him and called the guys together.

"Jake, why don't you make us one of your famous doobies, okay?"

"Roger that, Bucky."

"Who is Bucky?" Enzo asked.

"You know, I don't have a freakin' clue," Jake said, flashing his goofy grin.

"Since the four of us are a team now, and friends, Jake and I thought we should shave off our dick hairs and become one for all and all for one. What do you guys think? I got the clippers right here," I said, waving the clippers around up in the air.

"It'll grow back in no time," Jake said, sitting on one of the old fold-out couch's working hard on the joint.

"I agree. I think it's a bitchin idea," Kenji said, "although, I don't have much hair to trim off anyway."

"No way! You guys can't do that. I'm not gonna let you guys do it," Enzo protested. "You guys have done so much for me already. That's not right."

"Sure it is. Only I'm gonna do the trimming this time. You don't seem to do a very good job," I said giggling, pointing the clippers at Enzo. "Not that you had much of a choice. Sorry. I shouldn't have said that. But anyway, maybe this will make us faster swimmers. I saw a guy on Wild World of Sports being interviewed by Jim McKay one Saturday who said he shaved his head and it improved his times. He actually shaved his whole body down, but I wouldn't go that far unless I was gonna be in the Olympics."

"Ry, I don't care how stoned we get; I'm not going to shave my head. Or my pits, for that matter. That's just plain stupid," Jake said, giving me a comical stare. "I must insist. I must, I must."

"Yeah, you're right. That's taking it too far. But I think we should still trim our pubes. That way Enzo won't feel different or left out."

"I'll go first," Kenji said. "I don't have that many to begin with, so I won't miss them."

"Yeah, I'll do it too, but let me roll this up first," Jake said.

"Outasight. Enzo?" I asked.

"Yeah, but you guys don't have to do this. I suppose you're gonna do it anyway, so I'll go first. You can clean me up and make it look as good as possible. I hope you're good with those things, Ry." Wow. That was the first time that he ever called me that.

"Let's get high first," Kenji said.

"Okey-dokey. I'm done. Let's fire this up," Jake said, holding up the biggest, fattest joint that I had ever seen. It was even larger than the one he rolled the other day. It looked like one he had done before that looked like one of my Grandpa's Cubans, but this one was humongous. We all laughed at him.

"What?" Jake sat there clueless.

"Dude, you're gonna have to use that fifty and buy our next bag or three of pot. This thing is gigantic. How did you do that?"

"Well, you never showed me how to roll one, and it's not like they show you how to do it in Home EC." He was pouting now. "I used two papers because there are four of us."

"Hey, no harm, no foul, buddy. Just make them smaller next time, okay? But it's your turn to see Coop, anyway, man. I can't afford to keep you and Lisa in grass forever. Did you really have to take Home Economics at your old school?" I asked, taking the super-fatty and torching it up.

"Yeah," he said and started laughing. He never stayed mad for very long, one more thing I loved about him. "They made the guys mix it up with the girls, and we learned some super groovy survival skills. Like how to make a grilled cheese sandwich or nachos made out of Wampums and Velveeta in one of those new microwave oven thingies. If we're ever stranded on a desert island, and we get the munchies, I'm your man." He took the joint from me, sucked down a big hit, and passed it on to Kenji.

"Bitchin," said Kenji. "This tastes sweet."

"Jake, you're hilarious. Where did you go to school?" Enzo asked Jake.

"Me and Lisa and my mom lived in a crummy part of San Pedro, in an old, stinky apartment building. Our school was poor and didn't have much of a sports program, other than football. Unless you were gifted, or Asian illegals, sorry Kenji, there was no chance of getting a good education. Half the school took the short bus, for fuck's sake. I thank my mom every day that we moved here," Jake said.

"Was it really that bad?" Kenji asked, letting out a thick cloud of smoke, passing it on to Enzo. "And don't be sorry. I know all about those boat people and how hard it was for them fleeing that shit in Vietnam."

"I know. Anyway, we didn't have to get to first period until almost eight-thirty. We'd have a super long class one day, then a short one the next. Fridays were completely different, and nobody knew what was up. Shit. God forbid we had a pep assembly, and then the whole schedule was shot to hell. We didn't have our lunch break until one-forty-five, and then for only twenty-two minutes. By that time we were so sleepy and hungry, we couldn't even think straight. Three-quarters of the school were on the lunch program, and they hogged up the food lines. So me and my friends jammed off campus to Tobacco Road, downed a Coke and ate a bag of Cheetos or something. Amazingly, I still got A's and B's."

"Wow, that sounds fucked up. At least here in Pasadena, we have good teachers and a reasonable lunch period. Did the parents at your school take an interest? The Bulldogs have a great following, and the alumni always show up for our football games," Enzo said, blowing out a cloud of pot smoke. "Even though my dad never has time to show up for our meets, he always coughs up dough for the booster club." He passed the big doobie on to me.

"Maybe he'll start showing up now," Jake said, "and yeah, the football team was everything, and more. It was the only thing that the school did right. After every game, they had a party at one of the player's houses where everybody got fucked up and then this one time –"

"Hey, dude. Save that for later, okay?" I interrupted, taking another hit off the grass and passing it on to him. "That's too long of a story for now. I want to get cutting," I said with a wink. The other guys didn't need to hear about Lisa and her sordid sex history.

"Yeah, you're right. I'll tell you guys about that later." He took one last drag and snuffed it out. Not surprisingly there was still two-thirds left.

"Okay, who's going to go first?" I asked. I had gotten an old beach towel out of the bathroom and placed it on the floor in front of a chair. That way, clean-up would be a snap. I plugged in the trimmers and sat down. Clicking the setting on its lowest level, I was ready to play barber.

"I'll go first since you're doing this for me." Enzo walked right up and stuck his half-hard dick in my face. His dick was good sized. Not as fat as mine or as long as Jake's, but it was kind of close. His dark cock hairs, or what was left of them, made him look sorta deformed.

"Okay. I'm gonna hold onto your dick and clean this up. I'm not gonna mess with your balls though," I said.

"What if I get a boner?" Enzo asked.

"I don't care. We all get 'em." I looked over at Jake who was smiling at me. "I shouldn't tell you this, but Jake and I fool around with each other from time to time. It's no big deal. The way I look at it is this: If God didn't want us to play with our dicks, He wouldn't have given us one."

"You're funny, Ryan. We should have been better friends. Kenji and I fool around sometimes too."

"No! Really?" Jake deadpanned, bugging out his eyes.

"Yes, really," Kenji said, smiling like crazy.

"Okay, here goes," I said. I grabbed his meaty cock with my left hand and pulled it taut. I switched on the clippers and started to finish off the little patches of hair that he had missed. Surprisingly, he seemed to like me holding onto his dork because it was throbbing in my hand. In no time I was done, and when I let go of his dick, it looked huge.

"Don't you think we should do the balls, too? It doesn't look right," Enzo asked.

"Yeah, I guess. But you'd have to shave them in the shower because the skin might get caught in the trimmers. You've got low-hangers, and it would be easy to nick them with this thing. I don't want to have to call Lisa and have her take us to the E.R. How would we explain your bleeding ballsack?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah. I hadn't thought about that. Thanks, Ryan, good thought. That looks more normal now," Enzo said. "What do you think, Kenji?"

"Wow. It looks so big. I like your dick. Do mine next, Ry."

"All right, Kenji. Bring that bad boy over here," I said.

I gave Kenji the same treatment that I had just given Enzo. His compact dick was already rock hard and pointing north, I guess from watching me fondle Enzo. So I grabbed it and took a second to slide his foreskin back and forth a little. It was bitchin to check out another uncut dude. His 'skin didn't cover his whole dick head, but almost. It was fun to play with, though, and I could tell he was enjoying it. Then I got to trimming. Even though he didn't have that much hair, once it was shaved off it made his dick look bigger, too. Man, if Kenji's dick looks big, what's Jake's dick going to look like, I wondered?

"Oh wow. That feels funny. I look like I'm six again. Thanks, Ry," Kenji said.

"Sure, buddy. Okay, Jake, you're up."

"I'd like a little off the top and sides, please," he said, joking. He stuck his long, skinny dick in my face for review.

"How about if I give you a Mohawk? You know, like a racing stripe down the middle?"

"Nah, too complicated to keep up. Go ahead and hack it off."

"Okey-dokey. Bye, my little friends," I said, flipping the clippers back on. I had mixed feelings buzzing off Jake's pubes, but it was for a good cause, and they'd grow back soon enough. Besides, it might be fun to suck around the base of his hard cock without getting his curly hair stuck in my teeth.

"Dude! Your dick is huge. Look at that," Enzo said, looking over Jake's wicked dick once I was through trimming him. He had boned up completely.

"Yeah, it does look bigger. Wait until you see Ry's. His dick is really fat when he's hard," Jake said, rubbing his paw through the bare patch. "You want me to do you?" he asked me.

"Sure. Just be careful and don't cut off my dick and give me a whisker biscuit," I said.

Jake took a seat in front of me and grabbed my boner. Here I was again, naked in front of a bunch of guys showing off my hard-on. Just like yesterday in Coop's bedroom. "Okay, Jake. Get 'em out of here."

"You got it," he said. Zoom-zoom and goodbye pubic hairs.

"Wow, that feels fucking weird, and it's sorta breezy," I said laughing. And everybody was right, my dick did look bigger.

"It does look bigger. I might have a hard time getting that whole thing down my throat," Jake said.

"Sure you will. With a little more practice, you will," I said.

"Wait! Hold on here for a freakin second. You guys suck each other off?" Enzo asked.

"Sure. Don't you and Kenji?" Jake answered. I was too busy looking at my naked wiener.

"He 'lets' me suck on him. But he won't do it to me," Kenji complained. "He only gives me a hand job."

"Why not? If he does you, you should do him. It's only fair," I said.

"Yeah," Jake added. "I agree."

"I know, but with that stuff that my mom, um, I mean, that lady was making me do to her, I just, I don't know, I couldn't, it's weird, that's all," Enzo said, clearly embarrassed. "I was always worried I'd choke or something. I mean, I want to do it but, you know, it's so damn complicated."

"Well, don't worry about it. After dinner, the three of us will give you a crash course in how to suck a cock," I said joking.

"You would? That would be fantastic. I have to be honest and tell you guys that I didn't like the stuff I had to do with her. Not only because she made me, but because I don't think I like pussy that much," Enzo said, looking down at his feet after realizing what he said. "Are you guys still gonna be my friends after I said that?"

"Of course we are. Didn't we say we'd teach you how to suck a cock? Ryan? Can I tell him?" Jake asked.

"Sure, buddy, go for it."

"Tell me what?" Enzo asked. All eyes were on Jake now.

"When I moved here, Ryan and his family were right there welcoming us to the block. The first time I saw Ryan, I knew we were going to be best buds. And we are. But I couldn't have imagined loving him like I do. I love him more than anything. From the first time I saw him, I wanted to be his friend. I never felt like that ever before. So don't worry about it. Everything works out. My mom always says everything happens for a reason, and I honestly believe that."

I was floored he said that. It's one thing to tell each other stuff like that, but he stated that he loved me in front of our friends! Man, I loved this dude. "C'mere, you," I said, pulling him up off his chair. "I love you too, chowder head." I pulled him in tight and gave him a huge, sloppy-wet kiss.

"Holy shit! Kenji, look at them. They're like boyfriends and girlfriends, but they're boyfriends and boyfriends. Holy crap. They're kissing! I can't believe it if I didn't see it for myself," Enzo said, eyes like saucers and looking back and forth between Kenji, Jake and me. Then, turning to Kenji, he asked, "Can we be like that?"

"Be like a boyfriend and a boyfriend? Fuck yeah, you can, if that's what you both want," I said, grinning. "It's totally bitchin. But yeah, you have to learn not to do anything sexy that would give your relationship away to others who might not dig it. Lots of people don't like two guys doin' it. You know, even those hippies and the Summer of Love groupies in the park talk about free love and drugs and shit, but I don't think they're into guy sex."

"What do you mean?" Enzo asked.

"You can't go around holding hands or kissing each other or grabbing each other's dicks in front of other people like a guy and a girl can. Well, a girl doesn't have a dick, but you know what I mean," Jake said, giggling. Sometimes he was so goofy, or maybe he was high.

"Yeah, it would be like Jake and me making out at Cooper's party the other night. We'd probably get beat-up," I said, "even by those acid-heads. But you can do it in front of us anytime you want. We don't care. We're cool, dude."

"I hadn't thought of that. Oh man, that bites. It looked so bitchin to see you guys kiss and I want to do that with Kenji."

"Enzo, you nimrod. I've been waiting forever for you to say that. Get over here and give me a kiss, right now you freakin' dumbass."

That's all it took for Enzo to hear, and with a gigantic smile on his mug he scooped up Kenji in his big, strong arms and practically sucked down the little guy's face, pulling the shorter teen right off his freakin' feet. It was funny, and yet, it was so endearing that all I could do was stand there and smile at them. Jake was standing next to me with a big shit-eating grin, too. He leaned over next to my ear and whispered, "Awww."

Once they came up for air, Kenji said, "Outasight."

"Listen, guys, this has been an incredibly emotional day for everybody. Let's put on our sweats and head inside for some grub," I said. "We need to check on the little men because I don't want them getting into trouble or coming out here and finding us doing this kinda stuff. We can come back out here after dinner, and I'm sure we can teach you some groovy, sexy things to do with Kenji, and we'll talk about this some more, okay Enzo? And you guys can kiss all night long if you want. Jake and I will be probably doing the same thing, sucking face 'til we fall asleep."

"You guys really love each other, don't you?" asked Kenji.

"Yeah, we do. Right Snookums'?" Jake asked, looking over at me, with a dopey look on his face.

"Right, lover honey-pie," I replied.

That made everybody crack up again. We got dressed and headed towards the door, but not until Enzo gave Kenji another big kiss.

I opened the sliding glass door and was about to step outside when I narrowly missed landing on a pile of empty cigarette packages and used matchbook covers piled up in a mysterious little pyramid. My good mood instantly disappeared. What in the hell, I wondered, taking a quick step backward. I looked around and didn't see anybody or anything, and didn't hear any strange noises either. Then it hit me. The Dark Man! Of course. He was here when we were playing around with the trimmers. Did he want more cigarettes? Or was he sending me a message? Was he pissed that we were fooling around? Oh fuck. I hope he doesn't grab me again.

I slammed the door shut and locked it, standing there thinking. Jake saw the panicked look on my face and asked, "What's wrong, Ry?"

"Guys. The Dark Man was here. He left a pile of cigarette packages and empty matchbook covers in a weird pile just out the door," I yelled. "Oh man, I thought he was going to be okay, but now he's stalking us! I figured he was done with me. Shit, what am I gonna do?"

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