We're Working On It

by Richard Norway

Chapter 15

A week had gone by, and school droned on, but there was a feeling of togetherness that this group had never before experienced. Cory was finally happy, truly happy. Life was finally coming together for him.

As school ended, he thought of his friends as he walked out the doors to face the sun. His life was coming together. He was out to the people that mattered in his life. He had a boyfriend who loved him, that was going to share his life, no matter where it went, or they went. He wanted nothing more than to be with them right now.

Within minutes all three boys had hooked up and were walking together towards the soccer fields to leave the school and head for home. Cory had stopped riding his bike as neither Kevin nor Matt had bicycles. He preferred just walking with his friends. Many other students were passing them as they walked slowly, but Cory didn't care. He was with Kevin and Matt again.

Hey guys," Cory said to both of them, "What do you say that we get jobs together this summer? It would be so cool if we could stay together over the summer."

"That'd be so cool," Matt said.

Cory knew that Matt was now daydreaming about the three of them staying together over the summer.

"Do you know any place that has openings?" asked Kevin.

Cory didn't answer because he had spotted Johnny standing up ahead across the soccer field. His mind was shifting away from the pleasant thoughts of working together with his friends to that sickening gnawing feeling in his stomach. Something didn't feel right.

Johnny was standing still, feet slightly spread apart with defiance, just staring at the threesome. Cory stopped walking and stood still, staring back at Johnny. He looked to his side and saw that Kevin had also stopped walking. Both boys continued to stare at Johnny, knowing that something was up.

Matt hadn't seen Johnny yet as he continued walking forward, lost in his daydream. Finally, Matt realized that he was alone and turned back to see where his friends had gone.

"Hey, what's up?" Matt asked.

Cory was quiet for a second.

"Johnny's up ahead and I think he means trouble." Cory said with seriousness in his voice.

Matt turned around and saw Johnny for the first time. Johnny was too far away to be certain, but he felt that Johnny's eyes appeared to be red, and the dust from the fields was sticking to the outlines of tear streaks on his cheeks.

The silence was broken by Johnny's scream.

"Matt. YOU FUCKING PERVERT! What have you been saying about me?"

All motion on the soccer field stopped. Everyone started watching the scene unfold before them.

Matt just stood and watched Johnny.

"Answer me, queer boy. What have you been saying about me?" Johnny yelled again.

"Ah. Nothing. Nothing, really," Matt finally was able to answer.

Johnny was still about 50 feet away.

"Like hell you haven't."

Matt fell to the ground as Cory and Kevin were splashed with blood. A millisecond later, the sound of a gunshot was heard. Disbelief was showing on the faces of every kid and teacher present. Slowly the realization of Johnny standing alone holding a pistol in his right hand came to focus on everyone's minds. Matt lay bleeding on the school playground.

But no one moved, watching a picture out of Time magazine, a moment of great emotional trauma, frozen in time.

Cory didn't know what was happening, but then the truth finally hit him. The truth crushed him.

"NOOOOO!" Cory screamed as loud as his lungs could force out the air. He dropped to the ground and tried to pick up his friend, Matt. The truth raced through him as he knew Matt was dead but prayed it is not so.

"Matt! Matt! Don't be... Oh God. How did this happen? HOW!?" Cory continued to scream. He was now crying openly, tears streaming down his face as he held Matt's body close to his heart.

He looked up and through blurry, tear-filled eyes he saw Johnny still standing alone. Cory was scared. What was going to happen next, he wanted to know. He saw that no one was moving toward Johnny to stop him, and people were actually backing off.

Hatred of Johnny, hatred of the school, hatred of his teachers, hatred of anyone in authority welled up within him and his fear was gone. He felt nothing except rage at the boy in front of him that had just ended a dream.

Cory bolted upright and started racing toward Johnny with every ounce of energy that he could muster. The water puddles on the playing field exploded under Cory's feet as they hit the ground. He kept getting closer to Johnny, each racing step another watery explosion.

Johnny saw Cory coming at him and brought the gun up and took aim at Cory.


Cory knew of nothing but Johnny.

Cory didn't see the gun aimed at him and Johnny slowly pulled the trigger again.


Closer – watery explosions growing more rapid.

Johnny brought the gun down and hit it with the palm of his hand, several times trying to get the hammer to come back. It seemed to free itself as the hammer suddenly re-cocked, and just as he brought the pistol back to aim at Cory, Cory dove into Johnny and was inside of Johnny's arms as the gun barrel erupted.

The bullet went wild into the air as Johnny was knocked backward by the force of Cory's attack. The gun was knocked out of Johnny's hand by the blow and landed on the ground several feet away.

Cory was in a rage, his rational being no longer existed. Cory hit Johnny again and again with his fists without realizing what he was doing. Cory knew nothing of the world around him except for Johnny in front of him.

Teachers still too shocked to move, still watching, suddenly began running toward Johnny and Cory.

He now realized that he was being confined. His arms held, couldn't move them anymore. His mind finally cleared as he began to calm down. Cory was being held by his gym coach and his Geometry teacher, Mr. Parks.

Johnny had been grabbed and thrown to the ground by two teachers and two other students. He was being tightly held.

Someone screamed to a teacher, "Call the fucking police."

Panic and pandemonium had broken out at the school. Thoughts of Columbine raced through everyone's mind and students as well as staff were either running away, hiding behind whatever they could find or standing still, crying.

Cory looked around and he then focused on his teacher.

"Mr. Parks, PLEASE, I've got to go see Matt," Cory pleaded.

The coach and the teacher let Cory's arms go and followed as Cory ran back to where Matt lay on the ground. Kevin was on his knees just behind Matt looking up in the sky. He was openly crying.

Cory slowed his run as he approached and kneeled down next to his boyfriend. He put his arms slowly around Kevin and started to sob. They held onto each other for an eternity, neither of them wanting to move, completely wrapped up in each others grief.

Cory looked down at Matt as someone spread a blanket over Matt's lifeless body. He realized that it was over. Matt was gone.

Shaking like an old man, Cory slowly got to his feet. The gravity of what had happened had hit him with the force of an on-rushing train. Cory screamed.

"You are all to blame for this. Johnny only pulled the trigger. He was doing just what you all wanted, what you ordered, every one of you!"

Parks started to put his arm around Cory's shoulder, but Cory forcibly pushed his hand away. He looked into Mr. Park's eyes with hatred for a moment and then turned away and started to run. Tears were streaming down his face, and he wanted to run forever, to get away from all of this, to not have had it happen.

Cory ran down the middle of the street, past homes, past the park, past the nothingness around him. He wondered if anyone in the homes knew what had just happened. Cory slowed as he approached his own house, and he saw that the garage door was open and there was no car in the driveway or the garage. Richard was not home.

Cory had left the school just before the police had arrived, and the school was locked down immediately to protect the students and staff. No one knew if Johnny had acted alone in the school shooting. Johnny was being taken away by a force of four officers as a SWAT team began to search the school in case another shooter was involved. The school was in panic, and the town was about to erupt.

Not wanting to go inside to an empty house, Cory sat on the curb in front of the house, waiting for Richard to come home. Cory was visibly convulsing.

Richard first heard about the shooting when one of his employees ran into his office.

"Get the news on, now! There's been a shooting at Cory's high school," he yelled.

Richard immediately went blank, panic enveloping him as he thought of his son. He grabbed to remote and pushed the 'on' button, waiting for the tragedy to show itself. He prayed it is not Cory.

Police patrol cars, lights screaming, were everywhere on the screen. A female reporter was on the right side of the screen speaking into a microphone, but all Richard heard was,

"...the shooting was fatal. We don't know the boy's name yet..."

Richard threw the remote, and almost broke the door off its hinges as he ran from his office.

As his car skidded around the last corner and approached the house, Richard could see a figure sitting on the curb. He strained to see who it was, and thought he recognized the figure.

'Oh God, there's blood,' raced through his mind.

Richard's face finally showed relief, and then dread, as he recognized Cory sitting on the curb. He saw that Cory had his head bowed down in between his knees. He looked terrified, but Cory was alive. Richard's greatest fear, the thing that he feared more than anything else hadn't happened. His son was alive!

As the car slowed and approached the driveway, Richard jumped from the car and ran toward Cory.

Cory continued to shake but looked up sharply at the sound of the car door slamming. Recognizing the car and feeling the safety of Richard coming to get him, he tried to scramble to his feet, but only fell forward to his knees. He needed the safety of Richard and continued his scramble toward the car. Cory screamed as he approached the car and could finally see Richard.

"They killed him! They killed him!"

Cory collided with Richard, buried his head in his shoulder, sobbing uncontrollably.

Richard held Cory in his arms, burying him in an attempt to calm him. He glanced at the house and started to pull Cory towards the front door.

"Let's go inside Cory, now!"

Cory wouldn't let go of Richard, but Richard slowly started to move with him toward the front door.

As they entered the house, Cory began to feel the safety. He was home. Richard sat with him on the sofa, keeping his arms wrapped around him.

"Oh God, Richard, they killed him," was all that Cory could manage to get out. He kept repeating those words over and over and over again.

"Killed who? Who was killed? Did you know him?"

"They killed, Matt," Cory screamed.

"Who? What? What happened, Cory?"

Richard began to shake as he heard the sound of Matt's name.

"Who killed him?"

"Everyone," Cory screamed.

Cory could not stop crying but needed to tell him. Slowly, Cory tried to speak of what had happened, but he had trouble uttering the first word – couldn't get it out. After a few aborted attempts, Cory swallowed hard. He had to do this.

"We were walking home from school today..." Cory began.

He told Richard everything that had happened on the school soccer field that afternoon, the shooting, the panic, the fear. When he had finished, he was drained. He continued his hold onto Richard and slowly began to relax. Cory had no strength left; his entire body had collapsed. He actually started to fall asleep.

Richard helped Cory to Cory's bedroom, put him into his bed and pulled the covers over him. He knew he was already fast asleep. Cory needed that safety.

As Richard stood, he turned to look at the sleeping Cory. Richard then looked into the air. As the tears were streaming down his cheeks, Richard spoke softy to Cory although Cory couldn't hear him.

"Cory. I don't know what to do, son. I hope you can get through this, but I fear that your life will never be easy. Prejudice and fear will be like an anvil around your neck for the rest of your life."

Richard saw the future and his anger billowed within him.

"Fuck your school. Fuck this town. Fuck our whole damned society for allowing this to happen."

He was enraged.

Richard bit his lip as he turned from Cory's room and found his way downstairs to the TV room. He had to 'find' his way, because he didn't recognize just where he was walking.

As the sun was fading from the day, Richard found himself sitting on the sofa in the living room alone watching the television. Wolf Blitzer was telling the CNN audience that there was only one boy killed and that they thought only one boy was involved in the shooting, he had no accomplices. There was speculation that the shooting had occurred because of a personal disagreement between the two. There was also an unconfirmed report that the victim's sexual orientation was in question and may have prompted the shooting.

Richard immediately turned off the television and stared at the ceiling.

Suddenly the telephone rang, bringing him back to reality. He stared at the telephone for a moment, not wanting to answer, but reluctantly, he picked up the receiver from the side table next to him.

"Mr. Mathews?" was heard from the phone.


"My name is Ryan Baker. I'm a school counselor at Cory's high school. Is Cory there?"

Richard didn't answer right away. "Yes, he's here, but..."

"Mr. Mathews," the counselor interrupted.

"...he's not going to be able to come to the phone just now."

"Mr. Mathews. Please listen to me for a moment."

Richard went silent.

"Mr. Mathews?"

After a few more seconds of silence, Richard finally responded.

"Go on."

"Thank you. One of Cory's friends was shot and killed on the school grounds today. Cory saw it happen. We're extremely worried about him."

"I know what happened. Cory told me and it's all over the news. He's all right for now. I want him to rest a little."

"Mr. Mathews. I would like to come over there to help him get through this."

Richard thought that would be helpful, but he wanted Cory to sleep for now.

"Maybe tomorrow would be alright."

Baker was getting excited.

"No! Mr. Mathews, please. Right now! After what Cory has been through, at his age he needs some professional help right now, not tomorrow."

Richard knew that what Cory was going through was excruciating, and this experience would be with him for the rest of his life.

"Mr. Mathews. I'm trying to help Cory. Please. Let me come over there."

"Cory will be right here." Richard answered.

"Thank you. I'll be there shortly."

"Okay. And thank you."

While Richard waited for the counselor to arrive, the telephone rang again. He picked up the receiver expecting it to be the counselor again, but it wasn't.

"Hello. Mr. Mathews?"


"I'm from the Herald and I'd like to be able to have a talk with Cory, you know, to get his reaction to what happened today. He was there, wasn't he? He did see what happened? Would it be alright if I came over?"

Richard was in disbelief. There was no way in hell that Richard was going to let them get anywhere near Cory.

"Not while I'm here."


The phone calls kept coming. One of the calls was from another concerned parent who wanted community support to have the Principal, Mr. Bettler, suspended for allowing this to happen at his school. Richard almost agreed with this parent, but finally refused his support. Another phone call was from someone that Richard didn't know. But when he heard the word 'Leviticus,' Richard immediately slammed the phone down.

Cory was sound asleep, but he was perspiring badly. He tossed and turned fitfully and suddenly bolted upright with eyes filled with fear. He scrambled out of bed and fell to the floor. Grabbing his blanket from the bed, he pushed himself backwards along the floor with his feet until he was stopped by the corner of the room. Cory pulled the blanket up around himself for protection.

As he sat in the corner, cowering, there was a knock at his bedroom door. Cory could hear someone speaking from behind the door.


Cory did not move.

"Cory? I'm Ryan Baker, a counselor from school. May I come in?"

Cory continued to remain motionless.

The door slowly opened and a short stocky man of about 40 appeared in the doorway. He was dressed in a business suit. The light from the hallway behind him cast shadows over his face, and Cory could not see what he looked like.

As the counselor closed the door and walked slowly towards Cory, Cory could now see that he had a stern but friendly face, but he feared him. He was a part of the school. The counselor moved toward the bed and sat on the edge while keeping his eyes on Cory. Cory remained in the corner of the room, trying to draw away slightly. As the counselor put his forearms on his knees and folded his hands, Cory flinched. The fear remained in Cory's eyes.

The counselor looked directly at Cory, and a moment of silence followed.

"Cory? Would you like to talk about it? About what happened today, I mean."

Cory looked away.

"Cory? It was pretty awful, wasn't it?"

Cory snapped his gaze toward the counselor.

"How the fuck would you know?"

Cory's anger ripped through him.

A silent pause followed as Cory glared into the eyes of his enemy.

"What do you know about what it's like, to be someone like me or Matt, and what happens to us?" Cory screamed.

"People do bad things sometimes, Cory. And even with the bad things out there, life goes on. It always has and it always will."

"Not for Matt, it won't!"

"Cory, I know how you feel. I really do."

"No, you don't!"

"I really do know how you feel."

The counselor appeared to be pleading with Cory. Cory didn't care. This man knew nothing.

"How the hell could you? You don't even know me. You didn't even know Matt!" Cory cried out.

"Cory, let me help you, please."

Cory stared at the counselor for a moment and then turned his eyes from him back to the empty wall.

"Whatever," Cory remarked with indignation.

"Will you talk to me tomorrow, after you've had some rest?"

"Yeah, whatever." This conversation had ended.

The counselor looked around the room, then stood up and put his hand out to Cory.

"Let me help you back to bed."

"Please, just go away. Get out of here and leave me alone."

The counselor slowly dropped his arm and stood watching Cory for a moment. He then turned and walked to the bedroom door, opened it and just as he started to leave, he turned slightly to see Cory climbing back onto his bed. He silently closed the door as he left.

As the counselor reached the bottom of the stairs, Richard was waiting for him.

"Cory's going to sleep now. Can I talk to you a little about Cory?" the counselor asked.

"Please. I really want to know what's happening and what I can do."

"Mr. Mathews. Cory has witnessed the death of an extremely close friend. He's retreating into himself right now. He's questioning the whole world and his place in it. I believe he's about to shut himself off from the world, to hide in his own mind. He needs your understanding and support now more than ever. Expect him to be sullen, not wanting to do much. That's okay for a while. Don't push him right now to do anything. But be with him as much as you can. Can you take a couple of days off of your work?"

"Yes. That's not a problem."

"Good. He needs to feel wanted right now and that he still has a place in this world. Once he feels that, he'll come back to the real world."

The counselor leaned over and picked up his coat from the chair.

Richard smiled slightly.

"Thank you. Thank you for coming over today," Richard said as they walked toward the front door, not believing that the counselor knew what he was talking about.

Mr. Baker handed Richard a business card. "Mr. Mathews, if anything happens, if there is any change in Cory, please call me. I'll be available. I haven't really been able to get to know him yet, but I have this feeling. He's strong, stronger than any of us may realize. I'm hoping that his strength will carry him through this."

"So do I, so do I."

That was the one thing that Richard knew in which the counselor was correct.

The counselor walked out the door.

Richard stood alone for a moment and then looked upward toward Cory's room.

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