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About SHDWriter

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  1. SHDWriter


    Thank you for reading it, and for all your insightful comments along the way. (:
  2. SHDWriter

    Chapter 39

    Believe me... neither was I.
  3. SHDWriter

    Chapter 1

    I liked this story a lot, and really began to feel and visualize the world you created. I'd be interested in reading more if you are so inclined.
  4. SHDWriter

    Chapter 17

    It was a different time. I remember when two kids were disagreeing, coaches might even suggest they sort it out behind the equipment shed mano-a-mano. Fighting was not just barely discouraged, but sometimes actively encouraged.
  5. SHDWriter

    Chapter 15

    Well, at least partially. Or more than partially, but not completely.
  6. SHDWriter

    Chapter 15

    Yeah, it's interesting how being a knight in shining armor can be seen as complete psychosis... especially when it really is. Fear not, Linda will get a few really great scenes in which to display her utter awesomeness as the story moves along. I can honestly say that i wouldn't have made it through high school without the real Linda, and I'm happy to say we still keep in touch on Facebook nearly 37 years later.
  7. SHDWriter

    Chapter 13

    Yeah, it was a different time. Somehow, 35 years of smoking later, I kind of think it would have been nice too.
  8. SHDWriter

    How I Got Carter

    I loved this. Even though the title gives away the game, the twists and turns of the story and the intense level of identification the author elicits with the narrator makes you want nothing more than for him to win Carter Mulkins. And even though you know he will, you'll rise and fall with each victory and setback. Great story!
  9. SHDWriter

    Chapter 2

    This story is off to a good start. I'm enjoying the way both of these characters are so open to sharing themselves in the hopes of not just passing the assignment, but making a new friend. They also seem unusually accepting of each others' vast differences. I guess it's easier in anonymous letters than in person at school, where James Bond in particular might get peer pressure to not befriend someone like Sherlock.
  10. SHDWriter


    That was thirty-two years ago. The rest of high school went pretty well for me, other than the obvious. I qualified for State in Humorous again the following year, and made it to the final three in LD Debate at National Forensic League District my senior year, almost qualifying for Nationals if I hadn't missed one key argument in the 9th round, the semifinal. I was in a lot of plays, from Our Town to The Merchant of Venice, and our one-act of Catch-22 went to State Finals my junior year. The Maxwells moved back to New York that year, so they never got to see that play. Their roots were there and the pain of Peggy's death had faded enough for them to make their way back to home soil. I left Texas for Washington DC after graduation and only went back twice, briefly each time. After a while, there was no one left there to see. Raymond was named the Samuel French Award winner for Best Acting at State for Catch-22, and went on to win Nationals in both Oratory and Dramatic following his senior year. I heard he married a model and followed her to Italy. Robin married a model too. Pablo became an investment banker, made a lot of money, lost it all in 2008 and drifted into hopeless, bitter alcoholism. Kirsten got pregnant by a much older Mexican guy and dropped out of school. I don't know where she is now. Kathy Witcher and I had sex a few times, kind of dated, but things blew up with her when her hated mother died and everyone suspected that Kathy had something to do with it. She moved away to college after graduation, and I think she ended up marrying a truck driver. She resurfaced a few years ago as a successful businesswoman. Nathan and I were best friends for the rest of high school, had a lot of laughs and got in a lot of trouble until he was finally sent to the district's school for problem teens and kicked out of his house when his mom found Polaroids of him and his girlfriend having nasty sex, taken by Terry. I already talked about our later reunion. I heard that he -- the guy who used to let peanut butter and rice rot on his bedroom wall -- runs a catering business, and is quite successful. Linda is an executive for a huge corporation now, but is still married to a mall security guard and has a young daughter and a son in high school. I talk to her occasionally, but we've drifted apart since she found religion in a big way, and that saddens me, because she was once my touchstone, my friend, my advisor, and the most stable person my age that I knew. She had been my rock, and now we were practically strangers. Heidi the dachshund was poisoned by those awful neighbors, who also sent lit firecrackers onto our roof one hot and dry July 4th. The wife turned a garden hose on Tynah once and Tynah punched her in the face. Eventually, Rex bought a new house a few blocks away, just to put some distance between our families. Rex and Sly both died in 2004, both of heart attacks. Rex had stopped drinking and smoking several years before, and even started voting for Democrats, which no one ever thought they would see. Tynah died a year and a half ago. She had learned the truth about me in 1988 and wanted Rex to write me out of the will. She came around eventually, but ended up spending all the money on ocean cruises anyway. My biological mother and I sort of mended fences, and I talk to her on the phone about once a month. I live in California now, and she lives in Virginia. We heard a rumor that Cindy had become a stripper in San Antonio after graduation, and that some psycho customer had followed her home and stabbed her to death. Imagine our surprise when she showed up on Facebook in 2013 with a husband, kids and grandkids. That'll teach me to believe everything I hear. It turns out that I'm also in touch with a lot of other people from Polk through Facebook, including Mr. McRory and Jeff Salzburg, and talking with some of them sent me down that road of memories which led to this story of my infatuation with one special boy. As for Polk High itself, it's still there, but it's not the same. They tore it down and rebuilt the entire school from the ground up a few years ago, and not a single brick remains of the building where I first met him. * * * * * I was molded by these experiences. Informed and shaped by them. And if what that shy, beautiful kid in the cap said in class on that day so long ago is true, I think that we both were among those unfortunate people born with tragedy in their blood. I never saw Taine Maxwell again. But I did hear some things from Blaine, who started writing to me after we ran into each other at one of Sly's races. Like me, Taine went to college, got married and divorced, and started writing. We both occupied ourselves with other jobs while we were waiting for our big breaks as writers, like every other aspiring writer in the modern world. I was in the nightclub and restaurant industry, while Taine took up funeral home work, becoming an accomplished embalmer and funeral director. Blaine and I didn't write much, just a few e-mails, but in one of them he told me his theories about why Taine broke up with me, why he left to Alamo Heights, and why he hasn't contacted me since. I thought his theories were interesting, but kind of glib. He said things like, "kids bullied him, and you know what words they use to bully different kids. Fag, queer, homo, etc. If he loved you, it would be like he was proving them right." I don't know that I put much stock in Blaine's theories. I think it was as simple as that he just didn't feel for me the way I felt for him. Oh boy. "Felt". No. "Feel." Because it never went away. I truly, honestly hope that Taine is happy. Because every day, every night for the last thirty-two years, all I can think about is my babes. My angel. The angel who will never get to Heaven, because he is so beautiful and perfect that he shames the other angels. I spend a lot of my time wondering what he's doing, how his life has progressed, and whether he ever thinks of me. I live near the water in San Pedro, California now. It's very beautiful and peaceful out here, and I love watching the stars, the ocean, the pelicans and seals, the whales and dolphins, and the sunsets, which are spectacular. It's a great place to write, and a great place to wake up every morning. But, still, there is a giant hole in my life. A big, empty place that only one person could fill. And it wasn't either of my wives, any of my girlfriends or boyfriends, or any of the countless strangers of both sexes who shared my beds and bunks over the last thirty-two years. Whether I had someone in my bed or not, I always woke up every morning lonely and aching to have Taine back in my arms. And it never happened. But still, I go on, now in my fourth decade of hoping and praying and trying to be good so that God will send my angel back to me one day. * * * * * And then I woke up this morning, made myself a cup of Earl Grey tea, and padded over to my computer, preparing for a full morning of writing by puttering around on the Internet, catching up on the news, reading e-mails and so forth. After a bit of this, I opened Facebook and noticed that I had a friend request from a "Tai Max." My heart nearly stopped, and tears began to well in my eyes. I stared at the screen for quite some time, unsure of what to do. Was I hallucinating? Was I still asleep and having a dream? Why would he contact me after thirty-two years? I decided that maybe, just maybe, hoping and praying sometimes worked. I whispered thanks to God, and my hand shook as I reached out to drag my mouse to the button which said, simply... ACCEPT.
  11. SHDWriter

    Chapter 4

    I often wonder what happened to her... those two teachers pranked each other relentlessly, but I think someone in admin talked to them after that one, because I don't remember any pranks afterward.
  12. SHDWriter

    Chapter 46

    Saw you flying by Flash of turquoise blue I just had to try To keep your life in view I came home from the Our Town auditions extremely upset. I was pretty sure I'd get a fairly big role in the play, so that wasn't an issue. Seniors usually almost always get the leads, so I wouldn't be the Stage Manager, or even George, but I was pretty sure I'd either be Mr. Webb or Mr. Gibbs, and would be okay with either. No, what I was upset about was Taine's bizarre kiss-off. My bird of paradise sweet bird of paradise "I knew I didn't really want the answer," I muttered to myself as I got cleaned up for dinner. I scrubbed my hands in the bathroom sink, fighting tears as I remembered the taste of Taine's sweet lips, the silky feel of his skin as we showered together over at his house... his now-empty house. Wish that I could fly I'd be beside you now But I can only sigh And watch you circle round I decided that washing my hands wasn't good enough, so I stripped off my clothes and got in the shower, turning the water up as hard and hot as it would go. It burned my skin, but as I stood there in the punishing torrent, I barely felt it at all. My bird of paradise Sweet bird of paradise Numerous emotions roiled and battled within me. Sadness, anger, heartbreak, self-pity, fear, pain. Mostly pain. I sank down to the floor of the shower, my skin turning bright pink and steam filling the bathroom, and I wept. So you fly away When will you come again So I can watch you play In the pouring rain I wept for Taine, for myself, and for the mournful memory of that magical third...that fragile being called Us...may he rest in peace. I would grieve him until the end of my days, I thought, as I stood and let the scalding water wash my tears away. I knew that as certainly as I knew anything. My bird of paradise Sweet bird of paradise I turned off the water, dried myself with a fluffy blue towel, and got my clothes back on for dinner. As I combed my hair in the mirror, I caught sight of my red, tired eyes. I look like an old man, I thought. I certainly felt like one. A lonely old man of fifteen, doomed to be without the love of his life forever. * * * * * When I went into the kitchen, Tynah was already seated and Rex was putting the finishing touches on his famous stuffed bell peppers in tomato sauce. Heidi was sitting at Tynah's feet, her cute little dachshund face all scrunched up into a look which pleaded, "you're gonna give me some of that food, right, Mommy?" "How'd dancing around the maypole go, Whod?" asked Rex, with a mix of sardonic dismissal and genuine interest. He was hard to read sometimes. "It was okay," I said. "Did you get to play Tinkerbell?" he asked, ladling Tynah's food. I smirked, but Tynah was getting upset. "I think that's just about enough," she said sharply. "Leave Rick alone, Rex!" Rex looked puzzled as to why Tynah was upset, and as for me, well, I was used to his ribbing. "It's okay, Tynah, we're just joking around," I said, hoping to ease the tension. Tynah looked from me...to Rex...to me...to Rex...and the color began to rise in her face. "I'm just joshing him, Darly-Doo," said Rex. "Yeah, it's okay," I added quickly. Tynah looked down at her plate. She was turning beet red. "Oh...," she said quietly. "Shit." There was a pause, and then she repeated herself, and then again. Her volume and anger were rising with each repetition until they reached a hysterical, screaming crescendo. "Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Just SHIT. Just SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!" She swept her plate to the floor angrily, and it smashed, spraying bell pepper, ground beef and tomato sauce across the tiles and against the bottom of the refrigerator. Tynah stood up, and her chair toppled to the floor behind her. Instinctively, I flinched, although I knew intellectually that she was the mother who didn't hit. My subconscious didn't register that fact, however, and I cringed, adrenaline and panic coursing through my body. Tynah ran from the kitchen toward the bedroom and I heard the door slam shut. Rex and I just looked at each other, mouths hanging open for a second in mutual astonishment. Then Rex picked up her chair and my eyes grew wide as I saw Heidi trying to lick the food off the floor. "Rex!" I yelled. "Stop Heidi! Broken glass!" Rex immediately scooped Heidi from the floor before she could ingest any of Tynah's dinner, which was intermingled with sharp, lethal pieces of her broken plate. Heidi yipped and, of course, peed herself. Rex stood there rooted to the spot, his bare foot splattered with tomato sauce and pee dripping from the nervous puppy in his hand. I rushed to get some dishrags to help him out. "Don't move!" I said. "You'll slip or cut yourself." I cleaned up the floor as best I could, then took Heidi from Rex's hand and took her into the garage to clean her up. Rex washed his hands in the garage utility sink next to us, muttering curses and imprecations under his breath. "First thing you do, Rick," he said. "First fucking thing you do...go out and get married. It's a fucking treat." * * * * * I lay in bed in my room trying to concentrate on my algebra homework. Why was everything so fucked up all of a sudden? How had this happened? Screaming at the window Watch me die another day Hopeless situation Endless price I have to pay I wasn't crying anymore, at least that was a plus. No, I wasn't really sad so much as actively pissed off. Since the summer, my mother had abandoned me, I was practically raped, I put a guy in the hospital, then he had his friends murder my dog and trashed my ex-boyfriend's dad's car. Then, just today, Taine had blown me off forever, Tynah had gone batshit crazy at the dinner table, and Rex was drunk in the garage cursing his lot in life. Why was my life so insane? Sanity now it's beyond me There's no choice This had always happened to me. Everything just seemed to be going right for once, and then it all went hopelessly nuts. Like when I was thirteen, almost fourteen, the summer before last. I tried not to think of that day, when I'd still been in middle school and my happiness was again shattered by craziness. Diary of a madman Walk the line again today Entries of confusion Dear diary, I'm here to stay It was July, 1980. Everything finally seemed to be going okay for me. My birth-mom had stopped beating me once I got to be taller than her, I finally started getting some friends at middle school, and we did everything together. I had plans almost every day of the summer with them, except for this one. So I decided to go downtown and see the Alamo. I really wanted to see some of San Antonio's past, which we had studied the previous school year in 7th grade Texas History class. I biked over to Rex and Tynah's house from our apartment in Universal City, about ten miles away and just outside Randolph Air Force Base, where my mother worked as a secretary. Tynah liked the fact that I wanted to learn about history, so she gave me a ride up to the mall across from Polk, where I caught a VIA bus downtown. After a few hours of walking around the Alamo and soaking in its history, taking the official tour and then poking around myself, I walked outside into the blistering hot Texas sun. It must have been 100 degrees that day, so I quickly found a raspas vendor and purchased a big, blue coconut-flavored raspa. They were basically Sno-Cones with exotic tropical flavors, and I had always been partial to coconut over some of the more eclectic selections (mango, papaya, and tamarindo, which I didn't even recognize at that age). The cold, icy treat felt good on my tongue. Manic depression befriends me Hear his voice Sanity now is beyond me There's no choice I crossed the street to a row of shops, wandering aimlessly and taking in all the new sights. I stopped at a bookshop, dedicated bookworm that I was, and quickly became immersed in their window display, which featured several books about horror movies which called to my genre-addicted soul. The bookstore was in an old stone building which sat next to a narrow back-alley strewn with garbage and litter. There were a few steel trash-cans way down at the end, and a couple of fire escapes from the bookstore and the building on the other side of the alley. I thought I saw a cat moving behind one of the trash cans, so I began walking down the alley, happily licking my raspa in my brown and white striped t-shirt, blue cotton shorts, and blue canvas sneakers. Oblivious to the fact that I looked like something out of the beginning of a horror movie, I moved blithely toward the dead-end at the back of the alley, curious to make the kitty-cat's acquaintance. A sickened mind and spirit The mirror tells me lies Could I mistake myself for someone Who lives behind my eyes? I didn't even hear the older boys until I was almost at the end. One of them began making a sucking sound between his teeth and lips, and I turned around to see my passage back to the street blocked by three rough-looking guys whom I guessed to be in their late teens. Two of them -- whom I guessed to be Mexican-American brothers, perhaps from Oaxaca -- had premature dark mustaches and nine-o'clock shadows, with prominent Mayan features. They were wearing identical black leather jackets, white t-shirts, rolled blue jeans and black work shoes. The third boy -- the one who was making the sucking sounds -- seemed to me to be Native American. He had no facial hair, but sported the high, angular cheekbones and hawk-like nose which I recognized as tribal only from history books. He wore a brown suede vest with long fringes over a bare chest, white jeans, and incongruously fancy black patent-leather dress shoes. They advanced down the alley toward me, three abreast like in some demented action-movie trailer, and one of the Mexicans was laughing a humorless laugh. The other one pulled a knife from his jacket and held it out at his side, twirling the long, thin blade in the air. The knife was what I would later hear Nathan refer to as a "pig-sticker," a slender stiletto which had been modified from a switchblade. I'm fucked, I thought. And, as it turned out, that was about to be true. Literally. I stood there, a skinny thirteen-year old kid in childish shorts and a thin t-shirt licking a Sno-Cone. It was obviously, in retrospect, a predator's wet dream. The Indian and the laughing Mexican were stroking the crotches of their respective jeans, and I could see that they were boned up. The one with the knife was boned up too, with no stroking required. I could see no escape, as the three of them effectively blocked the alley. Just then, the scruffy black cat bolted between the armed Mexican's legs and fled toward the street. I watched it go, dearly wishing that I could follow. Will he escape my soul Or will he live in me? Is he trying to get out Or trying to enter me? "What do you want?" I asked in a tremulous, terrified voice. My own voice seemed distant to me, my field of vision began to narrow, and my hearing starting to become muffled as the blood rushed against my eardrums. "Your sweet ass, little white boy," said one of them, I don't remember which. The raspa fell from my hand, landing on the dirty asphalt with a wet splat, the blue slush melting almost instantly in the oppressive heat. I backed up as they began to close the gap between us. Frantically, I turned around, looking for escape. Both of the fire ladders were pulled up too high for me to reach, and all I could see was the steel trash cans and a filthy brick wall behind them. Then someone grabbed my hair from behind and slammed me face-down onto one of the trash can lids. It made a loud metal crash, but didn't really hurt except for the edge, which caught me just below the ribcage. Voices in the darkness Scream away my mental health Can I ask a question To help me save me from myself? "Why are you doing this?" I managed, as one hand held my right shoulder while the other tightened its grip on my hair, roughly smashing my face into the greasy, dirty lid of the trash can. "Shut the fuck up!" was the answer, as the hand on my shoulder retreated, returning with the pig-sticker and pressing it against my throat, just under my jawline. "Keep your fucking mouth shut, greymeat!" Greymeat? I thought crazily. What the fuck was a greymeat? My shorts and underwear were then savagely ripped down my skinny young legs, and I could feel the hot, stagnant air hitting my bare bottom. What I felt then...well, let me backtrack. When I said earlier that Jeff's entry was the most painful thing I'd ever felt in my life, I wasn't exactly lying. For one thing, I was under the influence of sensation-enhancing drugs when I was at Jeff's house about fourteen months after what happened in that alley. For another, Jeff was huge down there, and these guys weren't. And, finally, I think that by the time the first of them -- the Mexican with the knife -- ripped into me, I was probably in a state of shock. That's not to say that it didn't hurt. Because it did. A lot. And it seemed to go on forever, although I think I may have lost consciousness once or twice. The first one was fairly quick, with short, savage thrusts which tore my flesh and made me bleed. When he grunted out his climax, his grip tightened not only on my hair, but on the knife. I was afraid that he would be so carried away that he would stab it through my neck by accident, but he didn't. He gave my trembling body a shove into the trash can as he pulled out, and I laid there bleeding and gasping for breath. My stomach was knotted up, and his fluid burned my internal wounds. I turned my head, tears streaming from my eyes, and saw the little blue puddle of my melted raspa a few feet away. I focused on it, although I still screamed as the Indian tore into me, earning me a brutal punch in the side of the head which made my ears ring. "Shut your fucking mouth," the Indian said, and then grabbed my hips tightly with both hands and began thrusting in and out of me with long, hard, excruciatingly slow and painful strokes. His thumbs dug into my kidneys as he held me in an iron grip. The Indian made it last a long time, and was ramming into me so hard that the trash can tilted forward and my feet left the ground, earning hoots of appreciation from the Mexicans watching him rape me. After what seemed like hours, but was probably only about twenty minutes, the Indian came, bucking his hips into me so hard that I was afraid the trash can would tip over and deposit me face-first into the pile of wet cat shit in front of me. He rocked back, forcing me back down until my feet touched the ground again, and pulled out with a sticky popping sound which made my stomach turn. The Indian said something, and then I heard the Mexican who had been laughing step up behind me. He was still laughing, and slapped my ass really hard about five or six times. Then he buried himself inside me with one flesh-ripping thrust, causing me to cry out again, only this time with not nearly as much volume or energy as before. Then he grabbed a fistful of hair at the back of my head and began slamming my face into the trash can lid, hard, punctuating each thrust with a face-slam and some words in Spanish -- which I didn't understand -- mixed in with English obscenities. I felt something let go in my nose, and blood began to run into my mouth as he slammed me repeatedly into the dirty steel lid, which had tipped by now and was hanging half inside the trash can and half out. "Fuck, culero, fuck!" he shouted, laughing and raping and smashing my face into the lid over and over again until everything started to turn grey and the coppery taste of blood filled my nose and mouth and I could only see the melted raspa and the cat shit and the bloody, greasy lid of the trash can and then I slipped away into blackness. * * * * * I awoke with dark blood crusted all over my face, and had to slowly pull my cheek from where it had been bonded to the brown, viscous mess on the trash-can lid. I looked to see if the boys were gone, and they were. I laid bent over the can for a moment, trying to feel whether anything was broken. Probably not, I thought dimly. My face was a mess, and my insides were shredded, bloody and raw, but I didn't think I had any broken bones. I stood up slowly, using my hands on the edges of the trash can to steady myself. I felt some tenderness under my ribs, and lifted my shirt to see the area red and blue, already starting to bruise. I was sure it would be black by nightfall. What time is it? I thought, as I stepped out of my shorts and briefs, using my underwear to wipe the bloody, semen-soaked miasma from between my butt cheeks. When I had cleaned as much as I could, I deposited the gory rag into the trash can and pulled up my shorts. I checked my watch and saw that it was almost six in the evening. I wouldn't get home until after ten, but I couldn't bring myself to call anyone just yet. My legs felt wobbly, like they were made of rubber, and my anus hurt with every step as I slowly walked toward the street, eyes glassy and shell-shocked, past the wet stain on the pavement which was once a happy blue raspa. By the time I got back to Tynah and Rex's house, my mom was there, and everyone was very upset because I hadn't called. I told them that I had missed the bus and hadn't been able to find a public phone which worked. Tynah was so heavily suburbanized that she bought the story instantly, and everyone else seemed to go along with it. I could tell that my mom was mad as we loaded my bike into the back of her 1973 Plymouth Duster and drove back to Universal City, but I knew she wouldn't beat me. I'd just get the silent treatment for a few days, and that was fine by me. I was just thankful beyond words that I didn't have to ride my bike home ten miles with what was going on in my behind. My shorts would have been soaked with blood by the time I got home, if I managed to even ride that far. * * * * * Now, fourteen months later, I laid in my bed at Rex and Tynah's house, replaying the rape in my mind for the thousandth time. Why hadn't I called the police? Well, the best description I could have given at the time was "two Mexicans of average height, average build, and no distinguishing marks, and a guy who could have been Native American." Oh, yeah, "they all had black hair and dark eyes." That could match about two-thirds of the population of San Antonio at the time. Also, I just didn't want to talk about it. I still don't like to talk about it. Because I started developing a complex about it. Did they know I was gay just by looking at me? Did I do something to provoke them? Did I want them to do it? Well, of course now I know the answers to all of those questions was "no", but it's pretty typical for survivors of violent sexual assault to go through all those mental gymnastics of blaming themselves, and that's what I did. There was one more set of questions that was part of that complex, however, and it didn't have such an easy answer, especially considering everything which had happened before that rape, and everything which had happened since. Particularly in light of what had happened in the last few months. Was I just doomed to a life of perpetual insanity and violence? Was God mad at me because I liked other boys? Was the fact that my conception was an accident somehow cursing me to eternal trials and tribulations? Was my soul lost? Would I just continue to suffer and suffer and suffer again, until I finally couldn't take it anymore and gave in to that voice that told me to end it all? I listened to the sounds of Tynah and Rex angrily banging around at opposite ends of the house until I finally fell into a restless and troubled sleep. And the next morning, I woke up as usual and began getting ready for school. Enemies fill up the pages Are they me? Monday 'til Sunday in stages Set me free
  13. SHDWriter

    Chapter 45

    BLAINE MAXWELL'S JOURNAL So I went and picked Taine up from Polk around 3:45 this afternoon. Rick was just standing there with his back to me when I pulled up, and never turned around. Taine ran to get in my car and didn't say a word the whole way back to our new house in Alamo Heights. I didn't push him, because I knew my little bro well enough to know that he would talk to me or Dad about it when he was damn good and ready, and not before. So I just drove, although I really wanted to comfort him, because I could tell he was all torn up about the convo. When we got home, Taine went straight up to his room. I thought about going up there to talk to him, but figured we would maybe go out by the pool later. This new pool we had was twice the size of the one at the house in Brookwood, and the whole deck was done up in inlaid Italian marble. There was a bar just like at the old place, but much nicer, made of onyx, glass, and gleaming chrome. I went out there looking for Dad, but didn't see him so I went back inside the house. I heard grunting from the dining room, and found Dad in there trying to move our giant china cabinet around to the long side of the dining room table. I took off my jacket and hurried to help him. Dad likes to do everything himself, even though he's had a few problems over the years with his lower back. Formula 1 racing isn't exactly kind on the spinal column! Anyway, I knew why he was moving it there. He needed the wall above the foot of the table to be clear so he could hang Mom's picture. I couldn't decide if the tradition he and Taine had started of having Mom looking down on us as we ate and setting a place for her at the table was heartbreakingly sweet or kind of creepy, but if it made them happy, who was I to judge? When we had moved the china cabinet, Dad took a nail and hammered it in the wall above the foot of the table, then carefully hung Mom's picture, walking around to the head of the table to see if it was straight. He nodded to himself, apparently satisfied, then grabbed us a couple of beers from the fridge and gestured for me to join him at the pool outside. We had sat down in the deck chairs and cracked our beers before he spoke. "So, how'd it go over there?" he asked, trying to be casual about it. "I don't really know," I said. "I pulled up, Rick had his back to me, and Taine didn't say anything the whole way home. I don't think it went too well." Dad nodded, sipping his beer, and then said something that shocked me. "This is your mother's fault," he growled, waving one of his meaty fingers in the air for emphasis. "After Patty died, Peggy got all religious. It was her way of coping with it, I guess, but I couldn't stand it. Practically the only time she ever left the house was to go to that damn Baptist church over in Hudson Falls." "I don't get it," I said. "Mom being Baptist made Taine gay?" "No, Blaine," Dad said patiently, as if talking to a child. "She got really conservative. She railed about sin and liquor and promiscuity and drugs and gays...she wouldn't even have sex with me anymore." I winced. One of the worst things about being an adult was when your parents started to talk about their sex lives to you. Even the lack of them. You didn't even want to think that they had those desires, unfulfilled or not. But Dad was on a roll. "I'd wake up every morning like this," he said, raising his fisted arm tensed hard. "And all I got was lectures about the Bible. We were married, for Christ's sake! Anyway, I couldn't control what kind of crap she was putting into Taine's head when I was on the road." "Ohhh," I said, finally getting it. "You think she's why Taine is conflicted." "Must be," Dad replied, finishing his beer. He went over to the bar and began fixing himself a margarita. "I sure never raised a child who would be ashamed of who he was." "Why do you think Taine is ashamed?" I asked, downing my own beer and joining him at the bar. "Can you make me a Manhattan? I don't know how." "Sure." Dad finished making his drink and fished out some bourbon and sweet vermouth. "I'll tell you why I think he's ashamed. I saw the way he looked at Rick. I saw the way Rick looked at him. Those two are as in love as any two people I've ever seen in my life. And they...well, who do you think does the laundry around here?" "Oh, jeeze." I winced again. "Too much information." He looked over at me and grinned, shaking the bourbon and vermouth in a steel ice-shaker and pouring it into a martini glass. "My point is," he continued, adding a few dashes of aromatic bitters and a cherry to my drink, "all of a sudden Taine starts asking me all these questions about your mother...right after we had that talk and he went upstairs with Rick. It was an emotional day, remember, and I think it brought back some memories of her for him, too." I remembered. Dad had already told me about the talk he had with Taine and Rick in the parking lot of the old auto parts store on Walden, and then that got followed up by reintroducing my sorry ass into the family at the Brookwood house pool. Taine and Rick had gone upstairs for a long time, and I figured they were doing more than talking. Then they came back down, and Taine gave me a huge hug, and pretty soon all four of us were hugging and crying. We felt like a family again. But Dad told me later that Taine had come to him in his study and wanted to talk about Mom. And, come to think of it, it was shortly after that when I heard Taine and Dad talking about what house we were going to buy. I'm not the kind of guy who eavesdrops on private conversations, even with my own family, but I happened to be working on my Charger in the garage, and you could hear conversations in the kitchen through that door pretty well. The acoustics in the garage even amplified what was being said. So I really couldn't help it. Okay, that's a lie. But cut a guy some slack...I'd been out of the family for a long time, and I was interested in learning as much as possible, about both Taine and my Dad. So I listened. Sue me. Here's what I heard: DAD: So I've been looking at some houses in Windcrest. They're pretty nice, and you could go to private school if you wanted over at St. Gerard and still see Rick. TAINE: I don't really want to live in Windcrest, Dad. Can't we look in some other places? And private school you have to wear uniforms, don't you? I'd freaking die. DAD: Well, I don't want these lowlifes at Polk harassing you all the time. One more thing with that Gorman kid and I'm going to end up in jail, what I'd do to him. TAINE: (laughing) DAD: What about Chamberlain? The kids over there aren't so...rough, but it's close enough that Rick could still hop a bus over here to see you. Look, the VIA goes right from the mall by Polk to Chamberlain Estates. It runs until nine, but he could spend the night whenever he wants and get straight to school in the morning. There was a long pause. I clunked some tools around just so they didn't get the wrong (right) idea, but was straining to hear Taine's response. TAINE: I don't want to see Rick anymore. I told you already. I want to go farther away. What about near Jefferson or Alamo Heights? Please? There was another long pause. DAD: You're sure about this? TAINE: Yes. I'm sure. And please don't say anything to Rex or Rick's mom. I toed off my shoes and went back in the house then, and the conversation stopped, but I saw Dad with a strange, perplexed look on his face at Taine's request. Still, he nodded slowly and began looking at the realtor's catalog again, this time in the Alamo Heights section. We had all settled on this gorgeous house -- mansion, by my standards -- within an hour. I sipped my Manhattan in the deck chair next to Dad, still not really clear on the situation. "So you think Taine suddenly remembered some anti-gay junk that Mom was talking about, and that's why he pulled this weird break-up with Rick?" Dad shrugged. "I really don't know what else it could be, Blaine. They settled the whole hat thing. They didn't fight. They didn't cheat on each other. Hell, I have never seen Taine this happy, and then all of a sudden he wants to move in the dead of night? He wants to never see this kid again?" I nodded, contemplating the cherry bobbing in my drink. I was just starting to like Rick, too. After our little family-bonding session, I even looked at him as a brother. A friend. A guy who would kill or die to protect my little bro when Dad or I couldn't. And I saw how they were with each other. They were gentle. Tender. They treated each other like the most precious things on Earth, and the few times I saw them kiss...it was...well, it was about the sweetest thing you ever saw. I had talked a little about Rick with Taine the next day after our group powwow, and he said that the first time Rick had hugged him, he hadn't known what to do with it, because Rick was the first person he'd hugged who had needed it as much as he did. So it was a puzzle. Dad accepted Taine's and Rick's relationship. So did I. So did Rick's dad -- "Old Blood and Guts," of all people -- and all of their friends at school. Rick's mom didn't ever know, so the only person who didn't seem to accept their relationship was Taine. But I wasn't sure that my late mother's religious rants were the real reason. "Dad," I said. "I don't think it's because of Mom. As much as he loved her, Taine always had his own opinions. And I was there when you weren't for a while. Taine always complained about her religious nonsense. He thought she'd flipped her wig with some of the stuff she started saying. That's not it." "Then what?" he rasped. "What would make him suddenly throw Rick away? Throw love away? Nobody's rejecting him or picking on him, we'd kill anyone who tried. Blaine, I'm completely okay with it, and once you started to know Rick, you were too. So what could it be?" "I'll tell you what I think, Dad," I said quietly. "Taine has always been different. Unique. Sensitive. Very, very sensitive, and very smart...perceptive. As far back as I remember, there has been something...something that hurt him about this world." Dad nodded. "When he was born, the doctor said he'd never delivered a baby like Taine. He didn't cry, didn't smile. Just stared around the delivery room with big, wide eyes. Like he was shocked to be here. Like he didn't know what was around him, but he was both afraid of it and...I don't know...disappointed by it." "Yeah," I said. "And when he was a kid, other kids saw that he was different. And kids...I mean, Dad, there are so many great things about kids, but they can't handle difference. So they picked on him. They bullied him. They didn't let him play their stupid reindeer games. And it hurt him, Dad. It hurt him bad. And over the years, he had to construct an identity, like everyone else does, but his had to be completely false. He had to put up brick walls to cover the sensitive kid inside, while still maintaining just enough of a front to keep the bullies at bay. And when that didn't work, he decided to become invisible." Dad nodded, taking in what I was saying. For all his great effort at being a real father now, I still knew Taine better than he did. So I continued teaching him about his younger son. "But inside, Dad, he was also going through all the pain, the self-doubt, the fear, the anger, the self-loathing that comes from that kind of rejection. It almost hurt him too much to be alive. But over the years, he was able to carefully, piece by piece, assemble an identity that he could live with, if only barely. He came to create the internal Taine, to know who Taine Maxwell was, and to at least be comfortable enough with that to get up out of bed in the morning, even as much as it hurt him." Dad went to refill our drinks, but was still all ears as I went on. "And then," I said, "here comes Rick. And now everything that Taine had believed about himself, this carefully-constructed identity, this fragile defense against all of his doubts, his fears, his pain at being so sensitive and so different...all of that is now up for grabs. His world is rocked, and suddenly he's that scared kid again. On top of all that, he gets bullied. His knight in shining armor has his dog slashed to fucking ribbons. His Dad gets his brand-new Lambo trashed. And...his brother shows up out of nowhere, stirring up all those memories, all that pain. So what would you do?" Dad handed me my drink and sat back down in his deck chair, thinking. "I tell you what you'd do, Dad," I concluded. "You'd cling to the only life-raft you could. Like you did with racing when Patty died and Mom flipped. And that's what Taine is doing. Only he doesn't have racing to cling to, or anything external. All Taine has to cling to is what was inside him, that identity he built to protect himself, to get through each day. And being even more different, loving Rick and spending his life with a man, that's not part of that shield. He sees that as making him twice as vulnerable, twice as different, twice as weird. And all the acceptance we give him, or anyone gives him, won't help unless he accepts himself. And that's not going to be easy for him right now." Dad ran a hand over his sad, bulldog mouth and pulled it up over his face, rubbing his eyes. "So," he said at last. "What do we do?" I had to admit that I had no idea.
  14. SHDWriter

    Chapter 44

    I share your opinion on this, but since I obviously identify more with Rick (snicker) that's exactly what I would say... as for the family, tomorrow's chapter should shed some light on what's been going on.
  15. SHDWriter

    Chapter 44

    Wow, that is so great to hear. Thank you so much. It worried me, and I wrestled with this chapter more than any other than Chap. 46, which should be up Sunday and is the final chapter before the Epilogue, which should appear on Monday. I am happy to know that it seems to have come out well. Again, thank you for this comment.

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