Rating: Definitely R, because as it’s a sequel, I had to up the sex, drugs, rock and roll quotient several fold, in order to keep my audience’s interest.
Feedback: If you please.
Dedication: This story is dedicated to my cat Ghost, whose purrs, kisses and lovebites give me inspiration when nothing else will, and to Elden Henson, who shines on.
Disclaimer: Is this where I’m supposed to say I don’t own the Ducks and have nary a penny to my name, so don’t sue me?
Notes: My very second fanfiction!
A smashing great game
As he’s skating towards his team’s bench, I come at him from behind and shove him in the back with my stick, then drop it and start to take off my gloves as he turns around. But before I can even take a shot, Luis zips in between us and I can feel Connie and Averman pulling me back.
“No, Fult, no,” Luis says, pushing me backwards as I glare over my shoulder at #29, who is now grinning smugly. “They’ll call you, you know they will. We can’t take a penalty right now, man.”
He was right, I knew he was right, but that didn’t change how I felt. I wanted to hurt him. I let myself be escorted back to the bench, however, back to the rest of the Ducks and a very angry Orion.
“You’d better get ahold of yourself, Fulton. You’ve already had two penalties for fighting; I will not tolerate a third.” I just stared at him, not saying anything. Finally he looked away and clapped his hands, “Alright Ducks, let’s do this. We’re still ahead, we just have to maintain. Conway, Germaine, Robertson, Wu, get out there. Portman, do your best to cover them but NO FIGHTING,”—at this he glared at me—“those goddamned refs are right in Windsor’s pocket.”
Portman and the others skated off, and I sat down on the bench, pulling off my helmet and gloves in disgust. Orion was right, the refs were in Windsor’s pocket; they’d been missing calls against them all night, but not us. The Wildcats were trying to use muscle to hide a weak defensive line, and even though they were doing a pretty good job, so was Julie, and we lead 2-0. I’d snagged the one early on, but the first goal had been Banksie’s. After that they had been riding his ass like you wouldn’t believe. It was all Portman and I could do to keep them from killing him, and the effort was nearly killing us; I don’t remember ever playing such against such a hard-hitting, dirty team. Portman and I were just two guys, the rest of the Ducks were pretty small, and Windsor had at least six enforcers. None of them were as big or strong as Portman, but they were more than willing to take cheap shots to make up for this. Orion had had to keep either me or Portman on the ice the entire time, and so we hadn’t played together all game. I wouldn’t have long to rest before going out there again, but that was fine with me; this game was fast getting personal, and I wanted to make sure I was there when the shit hit the fan.
Adam was beside me on the bench, looking decidedly the worse for wear thanks to Windsor’s thugs; that last hit had been brutal, and it was my fault. I should have been watching him, not going after the puck. I felt so awful, I couldn’t even look him in the eye as I muttered, “Banksie, I’m so sorry I left you alone like that. It won’t happen again—”
He stared at me. “Are you kidding? You and Portman are the only reason we’re not all in traction right now. You’re doing awesome; I don’t know how you’re still even conscious right now after all those—”
Adam’s voice cut off and he winced as Charlie went head over heels, landing on his back on the ice, courtesy of another nasty blow by the Wildcats. Portman, who had been practically skating on top of Kenny trying to keep him safe, charged the guy like an angry bull, sending him flying. The damage had been done, however, and Charlie skated feebly back to the bench, supported by Guy and Dwayne.
Orion called a time out to check on Charlie, and seeing that he was not permanently injured, started to call Averman to replace him, but I broke in, “Let me go, Coach. Portman and I can cream these guys together.”
Orion looked at me as if he wanted to do just that, but shook his head. “I can’t Fult. You two are pulling double duty as it is. If I let you two play together now, I’d have to send the rest out alone later on, and they’d get trampled.”
“We’re already getting trampled,” Portman exclaimed. “At least together, Fult and I can do some damage, maybe give the others a chance to score, but we can’t cover four guys by ourselves; nobody can.”
Orion sighed. “I know, believe me, but we just don’t have any other choice. Now shut up and get back out there.”
By the middle of the third, things hadn’t gotten any better; in fact, they’d gotten worse. The score was now 2-1, since a Wildcat had tripped Julie with his stick—no call of course—and another slipped the puck in while she was down. It had taken the entire line to hold Portman off the guys responsible for this, and a few more to keep me off the ice. The constant checking and increased playing time was finally starting to take its toll as well; I was getting pretty tired, and Portman looked no better. We wouldn’t be able to hang on much longer at this rate.
I was on the ice now, along with Connie, Russ, Goldberg and Luis. Luis could outskate most of his attackers, and I figured Goldberg could pretty much take care of himself, so I focused on keeping Russ and especially Connie out of danger. This involved checking anyone who came too close to them, getting in between them and the goons trying to kill them, and retaliating when one of the Wildcats managed to land a hit. Okay, that last one was pretty much just for my pleasure. My whole body was aching, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t halfway enjoying this, the pure physicality of the game; it was the first real challenge I’d had during a school match in ages.
Connie had the puck, and I saw a Windsor goon take after her. I slammed him into the boards as hard as I could. He went down like a sack of bricks, but before I could get out of the way, I was hit from behind by two Windsor players at the same time. My head was swimming, the light was fading in and out and I had to hold on tight to the boards to keep myself on my feet. Don’t fall down, Fulton, don’t you dare—WHOOP!
I turned around gingerly and groaned aloud at the sight before me. The Wildcats had taken full advantage of my temporarily incapacitated state to snowplow the rest of the team and squeeze a goal past Julie, tying up the game with less than five minutes left.
Orion blew his whistle and everybody got to their feet and skated slowly over to the bench.
“Everyone alright? Fulton, you okay? That was a brutal hit you took.” We all nodded.
“Let me at them Coach! Give me one shot, just one, I swear—” Portman cried furiously, pounding his fist on the boards.
“Quiet! Alright Ducks, this is it. We only have a few minutes left to get that back. We need a goal.”
“But Coach, they’re taking us out as soon as we cross the blue line,” Russ said.
“I know, so we need to keep them at bay long enough for someone to score.”
My heart leapt as he spoke, and Portman and I looked at each other eagerly. “I know I shouldn’t do this, I’ve been pushing you too far as it is, but I know you guys want to beat this team as badly as I do.” Raucous cheers, especially from Portman and I, ensued. “So, Portman and Fulton, if you guys are up for it, I’m putting you in for the rest of the game. Let’s wipe the ice with these punks.”
I’d been waiting to hear those words all night. The pain in my body just faded away, as did the exhaustion, replaced with adrenaline and a renewed confidence. I looked at Portman, he looked at me, we grinned, threw on our helmets, vaulted over the boards, and did one of our famous chest butts.
We were joined on the ice by Adam, Kenny and Guy. When the Ducks fans saw Portman and I, they started cheering, and we took off, circling the rink with our sticks held high, pumping our arms in the air and screaming at the crowd as loud as we could. They responded admirably with cries of their own and cheers of “BASH! BASH! BASH!” My energy level was soaring; we could take on the world, Portman and I. Where would I be without him? He was so vital, and he always got us going when we were down. He loved to mug for the crowd, to get them cheering. He fed off their energy, and I in turn, fed off of his. We reached our bench and started pounding on the boards, trying to get the tired, battered Ducks going again. It worked.
“Come on Ducks, let’s do this thing!” Portman bellowed.
“YEAH!” I screamed, and we slammed our heads together. The crowd was going wild, and now the Ducks were too.
“Come on Bashes, you can do it!” Charlie yelled, and for once Orion didn’t try to put a stop to our “childish stunts” as he always called them.
As Windsor took to the ice, we were ready for them. They were gunning for us, but Portman and I were quicker. Again and again we slammed them until the ice was peppered with downed Wildcats. I could barely feel a thing; the Bash Brothers ruled the ice and we were riding high.
A Wildcat was going after Guy, but Portman and I got there first, checking him in perfect sync and sending him flying across the rink. I spotted #29 hook Kenny, and was off like a flash. I checked him into the boards with all my might, and then Portman followed suit. I could almost hear the sounds of bones breaking, and I grinned as he had to be helped off the ice by three teammates. Still, there were only two minutes left, and we still hadn’t scored. Now that their biggest guys were down for the count, it was time to do something, fast. My fellow Bash Brother had obviously been thinking the same thing.
“Come on, Fult, let’s clear the ice!”
Perfection. We took off together at high speed, heading for the Windsor goal with the others right behind us. As we crossed the rink, Portman and I downed all five of the Wildcats, leaping on the two biggest to keep them down, leaving the others on a three-man breakaway. Without a Wildcat in sight, they took the time to show off a little, Kenny spinning around as they passed back and forth in front of the net, before Adam ducked behind the crease and tucked the puck in past the bewildered goalie.
After that we went nuts, skating victory laps and hugging each other while Portman and I entertained the crowd, bellowing and slamming into each other with as much force as we could muster. One girl even threw her panties onto the ice with a cry of “Marry me, Portman!” I laughed and Portman blushed as he tucked the pink lacy undergarments away, later passing them to Luis and saying they were for him.
As we finally headed back to the locker room, Portman and I were still too revved up to stay still. Portman lifted Kenny up onto his shoulders and danced around while I tried to chest butt Banksie, only succeeding in knocking him to the ground just as Orion came in.
“Hey, Bashes, lay off our guys would ya, they gotta be fit to play next week!” He was smiling though as we all sat down and started to take off our gear. “Great game, Ducks! You really earned that win. You took some serious hits and some god-awful refereeing and turned it around, I’m really proud of you. Now go hit the showers. Oh, and I’d like to see the Bash Brothers in my office before you leave.”
After we’d showered and dressed, Portman and I stood outside Orion’s office for a moment before knocking. He’d never called us in before; if he wanted to yell at us he always did it in front of the team.
“Come in,” he called. “Have a seat, boys,” he gestured to a couple of high-backed chairs in front of his desk, and as I sat down I realized I’d never even been in his office before. I looked around, the place was so meticulously clean you could have eaten nachos off the floor. The walls were covered in hockey paraphernalia, including his old North Stars jersey, and his bookshelves were cluttered with trophies and true crime novels. His desk was empty, except for a couple of framed pictures that I assumed were photographs of his family.
“So what’s up Coach?” Portman said. He was as baffled as I was about what we were doing here; the best I could figure was that he wanted to rag on us for going nuts on the ice like that, but it still didn’t explain why we were here.
“Before I start, I just want to say that I didn’t call you in here to yell at you.” Portman and I exchanged glances as he continued, “I can tell that’s what you’re waiting for, and I consider it a failure on my part that that’s all that you expect to hear from me. I know we’ve had our fair share of differences, and that Fulton never quite forgave me for saying the Ducks were dead last year.”
“That’s because you never apologized,” I couldn’t help saying.
At that, Orion looked at me closely, then smiled and said, “You’re right. I’m sorry. And I just want you to know that I understand how you felt, why you left and why you came back. The Ducks mean more to you than anyone, I think, even Conway, and I hope that over time I can earn the regard you hold for Bombay and the rest of the team. During the game tonight, I realized that I’ve never told you two how much you bring to the team. You won the game for us tonight, but you show your stuff on a day-to-day basis as well. Portman, the energy and optimism you bring to the Ducks is invaluable, and while I may sometimes disapprove of your methods, you work the crowd like a pro and give the team confidence and vigor when they need it most. And Fulton, your loyalty and devotion to the Ducks is more than just admirable, it’s unparalleled, something they know they can always depend on, on and off the ice. The two of you work together unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s really quite incredible, and while I was skeptical at first, I am now certain that you deserve all the praise and renown you get. So I just wanted to thank you guys for what you did out there tonight, and to let you know that it doesn’t go unnoticed. Keep it up.”
Portman and I walked back to our dorm in a kind of daze, Orion’s words floating around in our heads like a mysterious thunderstorm in the middle of a late August heat wave.
“You know, Portman, the energy and optimism you bring to the Ducks is invaluable,” I snickered as I lay on the couch in our presidential suite with my head in his lap.
“Shut up, man, at least I’m not loyal and devoted. I mean, what does he think you are, a fucking golden retriever? What did he mean by invaluable anyway, is that like worthless?”
“Nah, the opposite, like so precious you can’t put a price on it.”
“Oh,” Portman said awkwardly, taking a deep hit and passing the joint to me.
We had retired to the attic soon after we’d left Orion’s office; his speech had really weirded us out, plus we were so banged up we could barely move, and pot was a great painkiller.
“Damn, that was a heavy game.”
“Tell me about it. I’m going to be so sore tomorrow I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Awww, does Poopsie have a boo-boo?” I cooed. “Want daddy to kiss it better?”
“In your dreams, faggot!” Portman laughed, putting me in a headlock. The next thing I knew we were wrestling on the ground, rolling around together like we’ve done ever since we first met.
But it was different now, it was better, because when we were done we didn’t separate, we lay there on the floor together, gasping and laughing. Portman was playing with my hair while I lovingly fingered the smooth, hard muscles of his stomach.
“You know, Fult, my mom’s right, you do have beautiful hair.”
I punched him hard in the stomach, and the fight was on again. I was on Portman’s back, holding him in a full nelson when Banks, Charlie and Julie walked in.
“There you are,” Banks grinned. “Should have known we’d find you here.”
“Man,” Portman sighed. “I knew we never should have told them about this place.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “They’ll probably want to start using it for study groups or something.”
Julie pretended not to hear us. “So this is what you guys do when you’re alone,” she laughed.
“Yup, that’s our Bash Brothers for you,” Charlie said affectionately. “Hey, what did Orion have to say?”
Portman and I struggled to our feet as I said, “Nothing really, he just wanted to tell us we played well.”
“You played a hell of a lot better than that,” Adam said. “You guys were awesome.”
“Yeah, you take the term enforcer to new levels, which is why the Ducks want to take you two out for a celebratory burger and fries,” Charlie grinned.
“Yeah, everybody’s waiting you guys, come on!” Julie cried, and they all turned and started down the stairs.
Portman puffed out his chest and swaggered towards the door. “That’s right, they all want a piece of Portman.”
I jumped on his back and held on tight, knocking him against the wall. “Well, they’ll just have to wait their turn, cause I have first dibs.” I planted a kiss on his cheek and took off after the others, Portman right behind me.
Yup, I thought happily as I raced down the stairs. That’s my boyfriend.
A rude awakening
I tried again, and after some outraged protests by my body, succeeded. I hobbled slowly and painfully over to the alarm clock and hit the off button a little harder than intended; I could hear a faint crunching sound. I hoped it wasn’t broken, that’d be the third one this year.
I went into the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face, and saw that I had developed a nice batch of bruises over the night; my chest and arms were mottled with remnants of last night’s game. My muscles were stiff and achy, and as I stood there trying to loosen them up, I looked at Fulton, who was still dead to the world. Neither he nor I were morning people; we’ve had to put the alarm clock on the other side of the room so that someone is obliged to get out of bed to turn it off, otherwise one of us will just hit the snooze button and go back to sleep for another couple hours.
I had stretched the stiffness out of my muscles, but I was still damn sore; I’d have to track down some painkillers before class. Speaking of which, we’d have to hurry if we didn’t want to be late, it was already after eight. Everyone else at Eton got up around seven or seven-thirty, breakfast was at quarter to eight, but Fult and I normally preferred the extra half hour of sleep to Rice Krispies and wheat toast.
Time for Fulton to get up. I walked over to his bedside and stood there a moment, staring at him. I loved to watch him sleep. He was lying on his side, curled up in a ball, his hands bunched in loose fists and his mouth slightly open. Fulton doesn’t snore much, but he snuffles, in a way that has always reminded me of a baby elephant. Don’t ask me how, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baby elephant, but I bet you anything that’s the sound they make when they’re asleep.
I used a lock of his hair to tickle his nose, and he shuddered, gave a few great snuffles, and turned over onto his back. Perfect. I pulled back the covers, most of which were entangled in his legs anyway, and slowly lifted up the old Chili Peppers shirt he was wearing to expose the soft white flesh of his stomach. I took a deep breath, then leant over and, pressing my lips to his skin, blew as hard as I could onto his belly button. The results were instantly gratifying. Fulton shrieked and kicked madly, forcing me to back up to avoid being clobbered. His eyes flew open and he looked around wildly, then saw me standing there laughing, and relaxed.
“I’m going to kill you,” he said, slowly and calmly.
“You should have seen the look on your face! Woo-hoo! And you scream like a girl!” I had to sit down on the bed and hold my stomach, I was laughing so hard.
“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. You’ll get yours. Wait and see,” he muttered, rising slowly out of bed, yawning, stretching and wincing at the pain in his body before heading to the bathroom to take a shower.
I waited until I figured he had removed his clothes, then cracked the door open and peered inside. His back was to me, and he was just stepping out of his boxers. I quietly reached my arm through the door and pinched his ass, then slammed it shut before he had a chance to turn around. I could hear him laughing through the closed door as he turned on the shower.
I went digging around in the piles of clothes and other junk trying to find the texts and notebooks Fult and I would need for class today. Let’s see, first French, then Health and Lifestyles, then Fult had History and I had Math, then we both had English. I stuffed Fulton’s and my books and shit into our respective backpacks, then started hunting for Tylenol. When I couldn’t find any I called out loudly, “Hey Fult, we got any painkillers?”
“Yeah, in my First Aid kit under the bed. Take a couple T2’s, no more, and leave some for me, huh?”
I complied, and a few minutes later Fulton reappeared, his hair dripping water everywhere and a towel around my waist. I had to force myself to look away as I handed him the pills and he swallowed them dry.
“What are they?” I asked.
“Prescription, but not hard-core like Percodan or anything. Plus, no codeine, so we should be able to stay awake in class.”
“Are you kidding? French and Lifestyles? Bet Ms. Lacroix will have to wake us up again,” I called out over my shoulder as I hopped into the shower.
When I got out, Fulton was fully dressed and munching on a banana. “Here,” he said, tossing me an apple. “Courtesy of Connie and Guy.”
As I reached out my hands to catch it, I let go of the towel I was holding around my waist, and it fell to the floor. I snatched it back as quick as I could, amid Fulton’s gales of laughter.
“I can’t believe that actually worked! That’s the second time you’ve exposed yourself to me in a week! I SO got you back!” he giggled as I hurried to get dressed, keeping my back to him the entire time to hide my reddening face. “At least we know that if hockey doesn’t work out, you can always have a career as a flasher!”
With that, Fulton grabbed his bag and made a run for the door as I lunged at him. I followed, crashing into him at the entrance to the hallway where he had stopped dead to avoid slamming into Connie and Guy. They had first period French as well, and always came to our dorm to walk to class with us.
“Morning guys,” I grinned over Fulton’s shoulder at them.
“Yeah, thanks for the fruit, it was even more entertaining than it was nutritious.”
“Huh?” Connie and Guy were bewildered, and as we walked down the hall Fulton started to tell the story, though he had a pretty rough go of it with me trying to strangle him the entire time.
I was sitting beside Charlie in Math class, which I normally like about as much as Britney Spears music, but today it was alright. We had a substitute, and she had designated the class a ‘homework and study period,’ which meant that we sat around and talked while she read a Danielle Steele novel.
“So you and Banksie are alright? You took some serious hits last night.”
“Oh yeah, we’re fine. At least they laid off Adam’s wrist.”
“Man, I wanted to kill those guys. We ever play them again, we’ll have some decent refs, and Fult and I’ll annihilate them.”
“Oooh, smell the testosterone,” Charlie smiled. “What would we do without you guys? Fulton’s been steamrolling anyone who messed with us since before he was even on the team. I remember when he threw Banks and the others into that garbage pile!”
“He what?” When Charlie told me the story, I laughed. That was my Fulton, alright. “How long have you known him, anyways?”
“I went to school with him since first grade, but never really talked to him much till he joined D5. Nobody did.”
My interest was piqued. “What was he like then? Fulton never talks about his past. I’m his best friend and I barely know a thing about his life from before he met me.”
“Yeah, he’s pretty hard to get to know, isn’t he? He was always kind of a legend at school and around the neighbourhood. He was so much bigger than everyone else, even when we were real young. He hardly ever talked, and he was always in trouble at school, for fighting mostly, or skipping. I saw a couple of the fights though, and it was always with big kids, normally outnumbering him, who were picking on little kids or something.” I smiled at the image of an eight-year old Fulton defending the small and meek of his elementary school.
“One day some bullies were pushing me into a locker—can you believe that actually happens?—and Fulton came along and creamed them all. He helped me up, asked if I was alright, then just turned and walked away. That was right after Bombay became our coach. I’d seen Fulton shooting pucks in an alleyway near where I lived, and one day I worked up enough courage to ask him if he wanted to play with us. He looked real sad and said he couldn’t. I thought it was because of the football thing.”
I had heard about the football scholarship myths that had surrounded Fulton before he joined the Ducks. “What about after he joined, before me and the others came along?” I was really getting into this. I wanted to know everything about my beloved Bash Brother, and I knew I’d never get it from him.
“It was weird. He was still super quiet, and whenever we were together, he was always the last in line, or at the back of the group or whatever, but he was different. Maybe it was just because I was around him more, so I noticed him, but he seemed happier. Still, he was always sort of on the outside, looking in, you know, like he was watching us? Except when we won, then he’d be right in there, hugging and cheering with the rest of the Ducks. You were his first real friend, I think. I got him to talk to me one-on-one a few times, which was more than he did with anyone else, but still, it was like pulling teeth. I don’t think he had a very nice life before the Ducks, and you really bring out the best in him.”
I smiled, wishing I was hearing this from Fulton, not Charlie. “He’s pretty great, isn’t he?”
“Fulton? He’s one of the best. I’ve never known anyone like him. I really think he’d die for us, if he had to.”
“Yeah…” I sighed. Then I saw Charlie looking at me and quickly changed the subject. “So, how’re things between you and Banksie? Marital bliss and all that?” I was still trying to process all the new information I had about Fulton, trying to put everything together to form a complete portrait of him in my mind.
“Now it was Charlie’s turn to sigh. “It’s good, really good. I just wish we didn’t have to hide it… you know, from the rest of the Ducks.”
“Who says you have to?”
“No one, I guess. Adam’s all for telling them, but I’m not sure… what if it changes everything?”
“Well, change is kind of unevitable or whatever, isn’t it? Besides, I don’t think you’ll ever know what’ll happen until it happens. I say tell them. Fult and I’ll take care of anyone who gives you any trouble.”
“But that’s just it. I don’t want to be causing fights among the Ducks!”
“Look, I’m not the best at giving advice like this. It’s a really big decision you’re trying to make, you could use more input. Why don’t you and Banks come over to our dorm after school? We’ll bring Julie and Connie and Guy and talk it all over. Between us we should be able to figure something out.”
Charlie was staring at me. “Portman,” he said. “Anyone who ever calls you a thoughtless goon will have me to deal with.”
My, it was dark in that closet!
“That’s what Charlie said. You know, just when I think I’ve got those two figured out, they do something else to surprise me.”
“Tell me about it,” Julie said ruefully. I knew she liked Fulton, she had for a few weeks now, but he seemed pretty oblivious to her attentions. We spotted Adam and Charlie heading our way, and waited for them to catch up.
As the five of us headed down the hall together, we could hear loud music coming from one of the dorms, obviously belonging to the Bashes, and when we reached the entrance we could make out some strange thumping noises coming from within. No one answered when we knocked, so we went inside, where we beheld a strange and amusing sight.
Fulton and Portman were thrashing around while Nirvana’s Nevermind album blared. Fulton was grabbing clothes strewn about and slamming them into a hockey bag lying in the corner of the room, cheering loudly whenever he got them in, while Portman kicked, tossed and shoved all the books, CD’s and other junk littering the ground under one of the beds. They paused several times to play air guitar or chest-butt each other before Portman noticed our presence and waved us inside while he turned the music off.
“Ah, my welcome guests, sit, sit,” Portman spread his arms in a mock-cordial manner and gestured to the beds and chairs which had been arranged to form a rough circle. As we were seated I looked around, marveling at both the Bashes living conditions and their choice of décor. Despite the rather cute fact that they had obviously been cleaning for our sakes, the place was a shambles, and though the beds, chairs and the area they encircled had been cleared of debris, I shuddered to think about what lived under the beds.
The walls were covered with posters of various rock bands, Nirvana of course, Tool, Offspring and some others I had never heard of (who the hell were And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead?), all of which were affixed at wild angles, often overlapping with the corners of another. My chair scraped the ground as I sat down, and a fuzzy black spider shot down from the ceiling, black legs wiggling and green eyes flashing. Guy shrieked and grabbed my arm, then relaxed when he realized it was a toy, and began looking around non-chalantly in an attempt to cover up his embarrassment. Personally, I loved the fact that my boyfriend had a severe case of arachnophobia.
Rock music hall of fame and noise-activated spiders aside, the room still held many curiosities, not the least of which were a naked Barbie with her hair cut off hanging from a noose attached to the ceiling, and an arrangement of healthy-looking, tropical-type plants on the windowsill. Having managed to procure a corner dorm not only gave the Bashes the largest room available, but also provided them with a window overlooking the grounds. Bastards. There was a copy of what looked to be Breakfast of Champions peeking out from under the bed, to which Portman gave a swift kick when he caught me eyeing it. The Bash Brothers as horticulturalists and Kurt Vonnegut fans? Guy was right; these guys were full of surprises.
Portman cleared his throat loudly and we all turned to look at him. “Right,” he said, clapping his hands together. “We shall begin. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Dean Portman, and I will be your master of ceremonies this evening, aided by my lovely assistant Fulton Reed. First item of business: the love lives of Adam Banks and Charlie Conway. Are they sleeping together yet?”
Indignant squawks of embarrassment from Adam and Charlie, as Portman laughed, “Okay, okay. We’ll get back to that later. Second item of business: should Charlie and Adam come out to the rest of the Ducks, and if so, when, where and how?”
“You guys are really going to tell the other Ducks?” Guy asked.
“We’re not sure,” Charlie said quickly, glancing nervously at Adam. “That’s why we’re here. We wanted to know what you guys thought.”
“Obviously it’s a good idea in theory,” Fulton said. “But you’re worried about how everyone will take it, right?”
Charlie nodded. “Goldberg and Averman? They might be weirded out to begin with, but they’ve known you two for so long, I can’t imagine them not getting over it pretty quick,” I said.
“Yeah, and Russ is from L.A., so he’s gotta be used to that sort of thing, and Kenny… come on, he used to be a figure skater,” Guy put in. “You should totally tell them.”
“It’s Dwayne and Luis I’m not so sure about,” Julie said thoughtfully. “I’ve heard Luis making homo jokes, and not to stereotype or anything, but Dwayne’s from Texas and…” Her voice trailed off and we all sat there, considering.
“Yeah, those two might be a problem, but Charlie and Banksie can’t keep this hidden forever, and they shouldn’t have to. I think it’s more a question of when and how to tell everyone,” Portman said, and we all nodded agreement.
“Why not just tell them all in the locker room after the next game? That way it won’t be weird on the ice, and they’ll all have time alone to get used to the idea over the weekend,” Guy said.
I looked over at Charlie and Adam. They were eyeing each other in excitement, but plenty of nervousness as well. I couldn’t blame them. “It’s so unfair that you even have to be worrying about this at all,” I said angrily. “I mean, I can’t imagine what it would be like if me and Guy had to go through all this shit.”
“Comes with the territory, I guess,” Adam said sadly, and I wondered if either of them had told their families. I bet they hadn’t; I couldn’t imagine Banks’ father taking the news very well. I’d have to remember to talk to him about that later.
“But what about Luis and Dwayne and the others?” Charlie wondered. “How do we tell them something like this?”
“Just say it straight out,” Fulton said, then grinned. “No pun intended.”
“The rest of us will be standing right beside you,” Portman added. “They’ll know we’re okay with it, and hopefully that’ll make it easier for them to accept, if half the team is already there, supporting you guys.”
“And no matter what happens, just know that we’ll be here for you at the other end,” Julie said. “We’ll get through this thing together.”
“Yeah,” the rest of us chorused.
Charlie made a funny noise and looked away quickly, wiping his eyes. Portman looked both confused and concerned. “Don’t worry Spazway, it’ll be alright.”
“It’s not that,” Charlie said, turning to face us. “It’s just, I feel so grateful to you guys. I mean, I’d consider myself lucky for having one friend who supported Adam and I half as much as you have, and instead I’ve got five…” He blinked and looked away again hurriedly, while Adam rubbed his shoulder gently.
I smiled, they were so cute together, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could feel otherwise. I just hoped that the rest of the Ducks shared my sentiments.
We were all in the locker room after the game, showering and getting dressed. Everyone was in a good mood since we’d creamed this team from Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Christian academy appropriately named the Saints, 7-0. Adam had scored three goals, and everyone kept congratulating him, but as he sat down beside me on the bench, I could see that he was all tensed up. I was too, if you want the truth; I hate waiting for things like this. I reached over and put my hand on his knee.
“Relax Banksie, we’re all here for you. It’s gonna be okay.” He smiled at me, but I could tell he was still scared.
Finally Charlie stood up and called out, “Look guys, before you go, there’s something we have to tell you.” The rest of us stood up at this cue and lined up beside Charlie. I was flanked on one side by Adam, who was trembling slightly, and on the other by Portman, who wasn’t.
“We, uh, have some news that may or may not surprise you, but either way it’s pretty big,” Charlie continued, and I could see the effort he was making to remain calm and at ease. “To be honest, we’re not sure how you’re all going to take it, but I just hope you’ll remember how much we’ve been through together, and that you’ll value this team too much to want to throw all that away.”
“Christ Charlie, what is it? You coming out or something?” Goldberg quipped, and the others laughed.
Charlie tittered nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. “Actually… yes.”
That got their attention. For a moment no one spoke, then Russ finally said, “So, do you mean to tell us you’re gay?”
I saw Fulton, who was on Adam’s other side, nudge him none too gently with the toe of his combat boot. Banks stepped slowly forward, and put his hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “Not just him,” he said, and I was surprised at how clear and strong his voice sounded.
“You don’t mean you two are actually…” Russ said disbelievingly. Charlie and Adam nodded. “Damn!” He looked shocked, but not angry or disgusted. A good sign.
“I don’t get it,” Dwayne drawled, looking around in confusion.
“Look, do they have to draw you a picture? They’re dating!”
“Each other, you moron!”
“Oh. Is that legal?”
“This isn’t Texas, cowboy.”
For once, both Goldberg and Averman were at a loss for words. “But… but… for how long?” Averman sputtered.
“About eight months now,” Charlie said softly, looking around, trying to gauge everyone’s reactions at once. “But we haven’t changed or anything—”
“The hell you haven’t!” Luis broke in. “You’re fucking queers!”
“Look,” Guys stepped forward. “You’re wrong. We’ve all known for awhile now, and it doesn’t bother us. They’re the same guys they used to be.”
“Yeah,” I put my arm around Guy’s waist. “I mean, it’s been going on since we beat Varsity, and have any of you noticed anything different? Have they suddenly started staring at you in the shower, or talking with a lisp? Just ten minutes ago, Luis, you were hugging Adam and congratulating him on his hat trick. Did he grab your ass, or try to feel you up? No, because he’s still Adam, and he would never do that. He just has a boyfriend, is all.”
Now it was Julie’s turn. “We know it’s a lot to take in at once, but deal with it. We have, and we’re stronger because of it. We stand by Charlie and Adam no matter what and you should too, because we’re Ducks, and Ducks fly together.”
Luis stood up. “Bullshit! I don’t care what you say, it’s fucking sick!”
Fulton and Portman immediately stepped in front of the rest of us and stood there, arms crossed, like a couple of bouncers at a nightclub.
“Oh, what, so now you two are gonna kick my ass because I don’t agree with you?” Luis’ voice rose shrilly.
“Don’t be stupid, Luis,” Portman said angrily. “You need time to deal with this, fine, but do it on your own, and leave Conway and Banks alone. You’re not the first bigot we’ve come across here, and I’m sure you won’t be the last. Just know that if you mess with one of them, you mess with us. Fulton especially is highly intolerant of gay-bashers. Just ask Beck and his friends.”
“What do you mean?” Russ asked.
“They found out about Adam and Charlie and started to beat them up a couple of times until Fult convinced them otherwise.”
“Look, don’t be like this,” Fulton said quietly, looking pained. “We expect it from a bunch of assholes like Varsity, but not from you guys. Don’t you think Adam and Charlie will have enough to deal with when the rest of the school finds out? If the Ducks won’t stand by them, who will?”
Luis blinked and looked around as if he were unsure what to say or do next, and I knew Fulton’s words had gotten to him. “Fuck this,” he muttered, then turned and left. The others soon followed, but looking more confused than anything else.
“Charlie and Adam?” Averman said as they left.
“Yeah man, who knew?” Goldberg added, and I smiled. They were going to be alright.
After that, the seven of us were alone once more. No, that wasn’t true, Kenny was still sitting at the far end of one of the benches. He hadn’t moved or spoken the entire time, and frankly, I’d forgotten he was even there. Now he rose and walked toward us with an unreadable expression on his face.
“I know how hard that must have been for you; I think you’re very brave. Don’t worry, I think the Ducks’ll get over it soon.”
“Are you sure? Even Luis?” Charlie asked anxiously.
“He’s my roommate, I’ll talk to him, but I think it’s mostly shock. His first reaction when he doesn’t get something is to get mad. He’s a good guy though, he’ll be alright.”
“I told you!” Guy said happily, clapping Ken on the back. “Its’ cause he was a figure skater, right Kenny?”
Kenny blushed and looked at the ground. “I don’t think anyone should ever try to hide who they are. People just get hurt.”
Everyone just looked at him, waiting for more, and he eventually obliged. “My parents were a figure skating team. One night after they won the gold in ‘88, they slept together, and my mom got pregnant, so they got married and had me. It was ten years before my dad finally told her he was gay. She couldn’t handle it, she moved back to Hong Kong and I haven’t seen her since. My dad was never really happy except when he was on the ice, and after my mom left it was like he was born again. He wasted ten years of his life trying to make himself into something he wasn’t; he always says that the only thing he wouldn’t do differently if he got the chance was to have me. I think the sooner you let everyone know, the better. Even if it’s hard now, it’ll get easier later. I promise.”
After his little speech, he turned to go. No one could think of anything to say, but that didn’t stop the Bash Brothers. Portman grabbed Kenny by the arms and spun him around, then actually tossed him into the air. Fulton caught him deftly and set the dazed little Asian boy back on the ground while the two of them danced around, slapping him on the back amid calls of “Woo woo woo, Kenny Wu!”
It was just like at a hockey game. They got us so pumped up that before we knew it we were all laughing and yelling and dancing around with them, Luis’ and the other Ducks’ behaviour long forgotten. It seemed that another one had joined our ranks, I thought, before my musings were interrupted by Guy pulling me into a tight embrace that seemed to last a full minute. When we separated I saw that Adam and Charlie were now fully liplocked as well, and the others were still hooting and hollering.
What were we all cheering about, I wondered, then Guy pulled me in close for another kiss and I realized that it didn’t matter. It was enough that we were together, and that we were happy.
Notes: *I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all again for your very generous reviews. You’re right, BennyP, I don’t always have much in the way of character development. I prefer to put the Ducks into situations and let them deal with them the way I think their characters would, so don’t expect a story where everybody learns important life lessons by the end. I will try to explore the Bashes budding relationship in future chapters, however. Cake Eater’s colourful comments are always a delight to read, and I must thank Saimone, whose words surely rank among the kindest I have ever heard (read). If you don’t watch out, my head is going to swell up like a balloon! Thank you everyone for all your support!*
Pond, swamp, bog, bayou, what does it all mean?
With a kind of wry envy, Hazel realized that Bigwig was actually looking forward to meeting the Efrafan assault. He knew he could fight and he meant to show it. He was not thinking of anything else. The hopelessness of their chances had no important place in his thoughts. Even the sound of the digging, clearer already, only set him thinking of the best way to sell his life as dearly as he could.
I looked up from the book I was reading at the sound of Portman’s voice. This must be love, I thought to myself, nothing else would be able to drag me away from the beautiful world I had been lost in moments ago.
“I’m bored. Talk to me.”
I had to smile. I had read Watership Down more times than I could count, and I never seemed to tire of it. Bigwig had always been my favourite character, and I had finally figured out why: he was Portman, inside and out. Big, strong, loyal, brave, outspoken, highly impatient and with a natural dislike for authority. It was uncanny really, and when I looked at it like that, I began to see similarities between many of the Ducks and the characters in the book. Charlie was Hazel, the leader, Averman was Bluebell the joker, Banks was Fiver, even down to his frequent injuries and closeness to Hazel, while Kenny could be little Pipkin and Julie, the confident Hyzenthlay. Luis had Dandelion’s speed, and Dwayne was like Hawkbit, kind, but a little slow. Who was I, I wondered. Blackberry? Buckthorn? Blackavar? None of them fit me very well. Typical.
“What do you want to talk about?” I asked, marking my page and tossing the book aside as I sat up on the bed and turned to face Portman.
“I dunno. Whatcha reading?”
“Again? How can you read a book more than… wait a minute. That’s not the one about the rabbits, is it?”
I grinned. “Yeah, it’s one of my favourites. There’s this rabbit named Bigwig who’s just like you—”
He looked at me with a mixture of both mock and genuine condescension. “Do the rabbits wear clothes and drive cars and go to the mall?”
“Of course not! They… oh never mind. Are you done your math?”
“Liar. Need any help?”
He stared at me for a moment, then looked down and shook his head in a way that struck me as slightly odd.
He shook his head again, as if to clear it, and when he met my eyes he was normal again, and I figured I must have imagined that last part. “Course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”
He was right. Our lives had certainly been altered in the past little while, but not nearly as much as I had expected. After Adam and Charlie came out to the Ducks, I had been worried that it wouldn’t ever be normal between us again, but it didn’t seem to be working out like that at all. The first practice had been pretty weird, but it was all stares and whispers and awkwardness, and even though it was the least we could have expected, I could tell Charlie was hurt. Banksie on the other hand, had seemed pleasantly surprised by the benignity of it all. Dwayne still didn’t seem to have a firm grasp on the situation and Luis didn’t say a word to any of us, but that was fine with me.
The first game after the announcement could have gone better, it was very uneasy, pretty low energy and no one played very well. Luckily it was against a terrible team and we still squeaked by with a win. The interesting part came afterwards, when Luis approached Adam and Charlie in the locker room. He kept shifting his weight and wouldn’t look them in the eye as he said that all his friends and family disliked gays, but that he’d never actually known any until now, and that he’d found himself unable to hate either Charlie or Adam once the initial shock had worn off. He apologized for his behaviour and said that he would be able to get used to them being gay just so long as they didn’t start making out in the locker room or anything. They both promised they wouldn’t, and after that, things had been pretty much okay. It was still weird, but each time we had a practice or a game, everyone got a little more relaxed. I think some of the Ducks had been waiting for Charlie or Adam to start “acting gay,” and when they didn’t, they began to forget about it. Goldberg even made a crack about dropping soap in the showers, and though it was dismally unfunny, I took it as a sign that he was getting used to the idea.
After the crazy locker room celebration, Kenny had begun to hang out with the seven of us, and I secretly thought that he was greatly responsible for helping to turn the tide of feeling against Adam and Charlie. Certainly he had helped with Luis, and I had seen him talking seriously to some of the other Ducks as well. I was especially happy with this development; I had always really like Kenny, and now it seemed I was going to have the chance to get to know him better.
As for Portman and I, it was unreal how seamlessly we had carried our relationship to the next level. There was no awkwardness or uncertainty, just a feeling that this was right, more right than anything had ever been; he filled a hole in my life that had been there for so long I’d almost forgotten about it. It had been over three weeks since the Trail of Dead weekend, and now Christmas break was only a few days away. In that time we’d told no one about us, and if anyone suspected, I was oblivious. This was however, entirely possible, as I had been oblivious to pretty much everything besides Portman. The past few weeks had been a dream from which I had been awakened only briefly and occasionally by hockey and the whole coming out debacle. Portman and I seemed to be having a hard time going through the motions of a regular day-to-day life. We had missed an obscene number of classes and broken an even more obscene number of curfews because of our need to spend time alone together, but wasn’t that the way it was supposed to be? Portman had drawn an amusing parallel between us and that ‘80’s song, I Think We’re Alone Now, and while I hated the song, I had to admit I found the comparison strangely apt.
“So, you wanna go home for Christmas or head up north with Banksie and the others?” Portman asked, breaking the silence.
Adam’s parents were embarking on a month-long Arctic cruise, and had told Banksie that he and “a few friends” could spend the holidays in their hunting lodge upstate, as a reward for leading the league in goals while keeping an A average. Adam hadn’t asked for clarification on the definition of “a few friends,” and since his parents hadn’t offered any, he had invited the seven of us, including Kenny, our newest acquisition, to come along.
“I dunno man, sounds like fun, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, and I’m dying to see what an actual hunting lodge looks like. Do you think it’ll have a big fireplace with antlers and shit on the walls?”
“Probably, maybe even some moose heads too. Bunch of savages. What’s with rich people and killing things, anyway? So you want to go?”
“Well…” his voice trailed off and I could tell he was thinking about the same thing I was. None of our friends knew about us yet, and so we’d have to keep it platonic if we came along. Given the current state of affairs, however, I’d say we stood a better chance of walking on water.
“We could tell them, I suppose.”
“Yeah. I mean, we’ll have to sooner or later, right?”
“Right. I just don’t want it to be the sole topic of discussion for the entire trip.”
I wondered why we were waiting so long to tell the others. Given what we’d said to Charlie and Adam, I felt a bit hypocritical. At first we’d held off until after those two came out because we figured if it didn’t go over well we’d be in a better position to patch things up, but now that that excuse was gone and we still hadn’t said anything, I figured a re-assessment of the situation was in order. Part of the reason I was reluctant to come out was the idea of everyone staring at us like they did with Charlie and Adam. That sort of thing made me real uncomfortable. I couldn’t imagine it bothering Portman though, in fact, he might enjoy it. I hoped he wasn’t holding back for my sake, so I asked him.
“Are you kidding? Of course not!” he cried.
Methinks the lady doth protest too much. “You’re sure? Cause if you want to tell people—”
“I do want to tell people, but I’m not sure if I want to just yet. I mean, it’ll be different for us. We’re the Bash Brothers.”
He was right, and he had hit on the second reason for my wanting to keep quiet for a little while longer. The stigma associated with being a Bash Brother was considerable, and I was having too much fun to want to have to deal with the repercussions of that right now.
“Do you think Banks and Charlie have told their parents yet?” Portman asked thoughtfully.
“No way. You think Banksie’s dad would let him spend two weeks in a remote cabin with a boy he knew his son was dating?”
“Yeah, you’re right. So what do you think about telling our parents?”
I had thought about this at length, and while I wasn’t sure the answer I had come up with would satisfy my better half, I decided to give it a go. “To be honest, I don’t really care either way.”
“What do you mean?”
“It doesn’t really matter to me if my parents know I’m gay. Not like the Ducks; I care what they think and eventually I’ll want to sit down with them and discuss it, but my parents… But listen man, if it means anything to you, I’ll totally tell them,” I finished quickly.
“No, it’s alright. I think I get what you mean, too.”
“How about your mom, you wanna tell her? How do you think she’ll react?”
“I dunno, I don’t think she’d care that much unless her boyfriend did, and I’m with you, I don’t really care either. So, does that mean we tell them or we don’t?”
I smiled. “I think it means that we don’t tell them, but we don’t go to any great lengths to hide it from them, because if they found out, no one would give a shit.”
“You’re saying your father wouldn’t care if he found out?”
“No, he’d care, it’s just that I wouldn’t care about how much he cared.” Funny how if you use a word too much, it loses its meaning. Care. Strange.
“Really? Wouldn’t it be hard not to care when he’s beating the shit out of you?”
I laughed, then saw Portman’s serious look and stopped. “I guess. So we won’t tell my dad. He’s not very observant, so we won’t need to worry about him finding out on his own.”
“Fult, your dad—”
“—is an asshole, I know, but I’m stuck with him, so why worry about it?”
Portman frowned, and I knew he wanted to talk about this some more, but what was I going to do, spend the night crying on his shoulder about every bad thing that’s happened to me since I was two? Ick.
Portman thinks that since I don’t talk about things, I suffer silently. The truth is that I never talk about stuff like that because I never think about it. Well, almost never. I think it’s pointless dredging up unpleasant things so you can bitch and moan about them. I mean, what does that change? Who does it help? It does nothing but make me feel extremely uncomfortable, no matter who I’m talking to, and it has a tendency to open the floodgates, inundating me with unhappy memories I’d rather forget. The trouble is, I can’t forget. I remember everything, and while the anger or hurt or whatever fades away, the memory does not. It just tucks itself away in the recesses of my mind, waiting for me to be stupid enough to take it out and relive it, and why the hell would I want to do a thing like that? It’s not like I’m desperately repressing memories on a daily basis, I just think that when something bad happens, you deal, you get over it, you move on and you never, ever dwell. I knew I should tell all this to Portman sometime soon. I mean, he deserved to know, but it didn’t have to be today, right?
Portman smiled at my words, but it was a rueful little smile. “Okay, we’ll come back to that one. So, is anything that occurred over a year ago off-limits with you?”
“What do you mean?” Great, play the ignorance card.
“Oh come on Fult, you never talk about anything that happened before I met you, except for a couple of Duck stories.”
“That’s because nothing much happened.” Fulton, you’re an asshole, he deserves better than this.
“But I want to know about the nothing, don’t you see? I want to know everything about you, what you were like, what you did, what you felt, everything. I finally had to pump Charlie for information, but I want more, and I want to hear it from you.”
I sighed. I had been expecting this. “Look, there really isn’t much to tell. My life began with D5. I was nothing before them, just some big quiet kid in the back of the classroom. I didn’t hang out much with other kids, I was by myself all the time. All I ever really did was read and shoot pucks in the alley.”
“Yeah, Charlie told me about that. Was it like you do now, with a suitcase and stuff?”
“Yeah, since I was eight. It just felt real good, so I kept doing it, and then the Ducks came along and changed everything.” Damnit Fulton, if you want to keep him, you’d better give him something better than that. And then I had it. I stood up and grabbed his arm. “Come on.”
I led him down the hallway and across the football field until we reached the forest that bordered the entire left side of the school grounds. “If you want to know me, then know that while I may not always be forthcoming about certain things, I will never lie to you,” I said as I began to push through the dense foliage that obscured a thin, winding, barely visible path. “If you really want to know something about me, ask, and I promise I will always tell the truth, no matter what. Just don’t expect me to provide you with it on my own, because no offense, but I really hate that shit. I understand why you want to know though, and you deserve at least that much. Okay, we’re here.”
Here was a clearing of sorts that ran alongside a large pond, or small bog, depending on how you wanted to look at it. The air here was cool, and the ground was soft and damp. A jay scolded us from overhead and a little brown squirrel darted past and disappeared into the underbrush, but aside from that, we were alone.
I led Portman closer to the muddy bank that sloped down to the water’s edge on a steep incline. A gnarled old oak tree grew right on the edge, many of its roots poking out of the cliff face of dark earth leading to the water. The tree had grown strangely. Hardly upright, it stood nearly 45 degrees from the vertical, so most of it hung out over the water.
I began to climb the tree, and Portman followed easily. Even though there were no low branches, it grew at such a strange angle that you could almost walk up it like a ramp. The bark was rough beneath my skin, and my hands were soon sticky from the sap as I crawled out onto a thick branch running roughly parallel to the ground, leaving room behind me for Portman before sitting down, my legs dangling over the still, murky waters of the pond.
It wasn’t your typical cigarette ad nature scene, but I loved it. Everything was dark and damp. Marshy reeds lined the muddy banks and I thought I saw a wood duck peeking out from between a thick clump of them. As my eyes adjusted to the dark I could make out water bugs skimming the pond’s surface, navigating between the dead sticks and leaves that floated everywhere, and I could hear the sounds of the bullfrogs beginning their nighttime chorus lines. Long strands of moss that draped like curtains from the branches of the trees were illuminated from behind by the glow of a crescent moon.
Without turning around I spoke. “I came here every day when you were gone. I’d bring stale bread I snaked from the cafeteria to feed the ducks and squirrels, and I’d just sit here for hours and think about stuff. I tried to figure out why I missed you so much. See, before you came along, hockey and the Ducks were all I needed. But you changed that, and when you left I realized that I couldn’t unchange it. It wasn’t enough for me anymore. I needed you then, just like I need you now. It scares me sometimes that I can’t seem to live without you. It’s dangerous to feel like that, I know, but I can’t help it because I—”
“I love you,” he broke in, then looked at me apologetically. “Sorry, I just wanted to say it first.”
I turned to face him then. The moon cast thin wobbly shadows from the tree branches across his face. “I love you, too.”
His smile seemed to leap off his face, and I was so happy I nearly shook. “You know, I always thought I’d have a hard time saying that. I thought I’d either say it and not mean it, or not be able to say it at all, or something. But I knew I loved you before we even kissed, so it’s different somehow. It’s easy. I love you, Fulton Reed. See? I love you, you beautiful little hockey goon genius with a violent streak. I love you.”
I reached out my arms for him at the same time that he leant forward to kiss me. I knocked him in the face with my hand and he lost his balance. I grabbed his shoulder to steady him, but it was too late, and we both plunged into the pond.
The fall wasn’t far, but when I tried to stand up, I found the water was too deep. I couldn’t swim, so I tried to relax and lie flat, but I kept sinking and swallowing water. I could hear Portman splashing around, but I couldn’t see him as I tried unsuccessfully to tread water. When Portman grabbed me under the arms and hauled me over to the bank, I was grateful for the darkness, so he couldn’t see me blushing in embarrassment.
We scrambled out of the water and up the bank with some difficulty, and sat on the ground for a moment to catch our breath and laugh at the folly of it all.
“My, that was romantic,” Portman chuckled.
“Oh yeah, straight out of a Meg Ryan movie. Next time we’ll try it without clothes.”
“First you’ll have to learn how to swim, loser,” he said as he stood up and helped me to my feet. “Drowning in that nasty swamp would be pretty pathetic.”
“What do you mean, nasty swamp?” I cried indignantly as I followed him back out of the forest.
“Oh, I’m sorry, was I unclear? I mean that swamp you dragged me to was dirty and gross.”
“I’d take a look at yourself before you go making snap judgments about picturesque little ponds.”
“Exactly, I’m filthy, and it was your stupid swamp that got me like this.”
“It’s not a swamp, it’s a pond, and you’re saying it had nothing to do with you being so overwhelmed by my charms that you fell head over heels?”
“In your dreams, queerboy!”
“Ah, yes, in my dreams. Nice wet ones where you’re wearing a leather—”
“Aaahhh! You’re disgusting!”
“Does this mean you don’t love me anymore?”
“Yes! Yes! God yes, I take it back!”
And so it continued as we returned to our dorm. We stripped off our soaking clothes and shoes and took a quick shower together before tossing everything in the bathtub. The laundry could wait until morning. I came out of the bathroom after dumping our muddy clothes to see him standing in the middle of the room, looking at me mischievously. “Why Dean Portman, you’re not wearing any clothes!” I cried in mock shock.
“Neither are you.”
I looked down at myself and feigned surprise. “I guess I’m not. My my, what are you going to do with me?”
“Kiss you,” he said, moving in and taking me in his arms. And kiss me he did. He started with the top of my head and began to work his way down, kissing my forehead, nose, lips, neck, nipples, bellybutton. Down, down, down. When he was done he pulled me down to the floor of our dorm and an hour or so later we were laughing at our carpet burns.
Notes: My readers may have noticed my reference to some of the Ducks spending Christmas break at Banks’ hunting lodge. I know that this has been done countless times before, and by better writers than I, but it’s a highly tempting opportunity to get some things out in the open quickly and easily while exploring the group dynamic. I am shamed to say that I even have plans for a game of truth or dare. If anyone thinks this is a tired, cliched cop-out, kindly let me know within a week or so, which will give me time to find a new setting for the next installment, otherwise I will probably go ahead as planned, though I will do my best not to cover the same ground as all the others who have gone before me. Kudos to quimby for picking up on my little nod to spiders in the last chapter; it’s always gratifying to know that someone notices the little touches I’m fond of tossing in.
How the rabbit lost his tail, and other stories
It was late Friday afternoon, and Fulton and I were sitting on the #7 downtown bus on our way home. We had decided not to join Banks and the others, who were leaving by Greyhound early tomorrow morning. No way could we get by without them finding out about us, and telling them just seemed like more aggravation than we needed. That’s what we were telling ourselves anyway, but I thought it was pretty obvious that neither of us were willing to share the other with six other Ducks. Coming home meant two weeks of solid cuddle time, without the interruption of classes and hockey practice, so we had decided to wait until school started up again to reveal our little secret.
Before we left Eton, Fulton and I had indulged in one last little sojourn to our attic hideaway; nothing heavy, just a little snack to liven up the trip home. The heightened awareness and sense of detachment that ensued proved to be immeasurable aides to me, the novice people-watcher. Fulton loved to sit back and watch people, especially in our neighbourhood. He said buses were one of the best places for it, and that I should give it a go. It was a lot of fun, it kind of cut you off from the rest of the world, but I think it’d be a bit depressing if I wasn’t riding a nice buzz right now.
A thirty-something man with a mullet and some weird skin problem that left the skin on his hands cracked and covered with sores (psoriasis, Fulton said when I pointed it out to him) was glancing around as he tried to surreptitiously remove something from inside his left nostril. A woman with hollow eyes that looked right through you stared off into space while her cute, blond-haired toddler stood on the seat beside her, picking at some dried-on gum on the pole attached to his chair. An old man with dark glasses and a bulbous nose covered with spider webs of broken capillaries called out drunkenly: “Last stop, San Francisco!” as a pregnant girl of 15 or 16 was talking on a cell phone, confirming plans to meet her friends that night at Barfly, a seedy downtown club that never checked I.D.
I gestured to the guy with the mullet, who seemed to have found what he was looking for, as I whispered to Fulton, “You think that’s us in 20 years?”
He grinned. “Nah. We’re going to fall into some money, get a place up in the Hamptons, and spend all day sipping martinis, playing tennis, and looking after our expensive purebred poodles.”
“Cool. We’ll have a half dozen of those little yappy ones, and feed them veal and caviar.”
“Then we can bitch about low investment returns and how the government is taxing our millions too much to pay for welfare and education and shit.”
“Yeah, those bums should get off the dole. Anyone who says he can’t find a job isn’t looking hard enough.”
“Damn straight,” Fulton laughed as we got off the bus and I cast a final glance over my shoulder at its sorry denizens.
We headed down the street toward Johnny’s, stopping at Fulton’s long enough to toss our bags of clothes and stuff through his basement window. Fult and I had talked about it, and we had decided that we were going to tell Johnny about us. We knew he’d be cool about it, and frankly, we were eager to see what it felt like, having someone else know.
Johnny was working in the greenhouse when we arrived, but he dropped what he was doing and ushered us into his seizure-inducing living room with typical effervescence. After we’d caught up and helped Johnny finish the watering and fertilizing, he sat down in his easy chair, which his Hawaiian grandmother had somehow upholstered in patchwork. The patches spanned ever colour and design conceived by man, not to mention the material. Silk, suede, corduroy, burlap, velour and countless others made the chair as much a delight to touch as it was to behold. Johnny leaned back, put his hands behind his head and looked at us expectantly.
“So, now are you going to tell me what’s up with you two? Why aren’t you spending the holidays with your friends, and does it have anything to do with you seeming different from when I saw you last?”
Fulton and I looked at each other and grinned. Leave it to Johnny to pick up on it by himself. Sometimes I forgot how well he seemed to understand us.
“Actually, the two are related,” I began slowly. “See, Fulton and I…” As I paused, trying to figure out how to word it, Johnny sat up straight.
“You guys don’t mean you actually hooked up, do you?”
Again, Fult and I exchanged a glance. How did he know? When we nodded, his face broke into a wide, sunny grin and he leaped out of his seat. “Well congratu-fucking-lations!” he exclaimed, clapping us both on the back and hopping up and down in excitement. “It’s about bloody time!”
“What do you mean?” I asked in astonishment.
“I always knew you kids would end up together, either that or remain pretty much celibate your entire lives. Even if you weren’t gay, I figured you’d make an exception for each other. I mean, how could you see other people and still spend all your time together? You’re like those girls in that Peter Jackson movie, Heavenly Creatures. Now come on, give me details! How, when, does anyone else know, that sort of thing. I’d ask how it’s going, but I think I can figure that out by myself; you guys are practically glowing,” he said with a grin, as Fulton and I both blushed and looked at the ground. Glowing? No way in hell did I glow.
“Uhhh…” Fulton usually left this sort of thing to me, but I was still a bit thrown by Johnny’s words, and didn’t have a clue how to begin.
“Here,” Johnny said, pulling a big baggie of weed from his pocket. “Tell me over a pipe, it’ll loosen your tongue. Fresh cut from this new strain of blueberry blunts I been working on, you guys can tell me what you think.”
So we talked, in between hits from this cute little pipe of Johnny’s, an alligator cut from black marble; you took in smoke from a hole in the tip of its tail. I told the story of that fateful night at the Trail of Dead concert, as well as a few other anecdotes, including our views about telling the Ducks and our parents and stuff. When I tried to explain the insane joy and other-worldliness of that first kiss, I got so worked up I could barely get the words out. I wasn’t the only one affected, Johnny kept looking away and brushing at his eyes while Fulton came to sit on my lap and snuggle, nibbling softly on my ear while I marvelled at the woeful insufficiency of the language to express what I thought and felt.
Finally I gave up and tried changing the subject. “Damn Johnny, this is some killer weed. I’m totally floating.” No sooner were the words out of my mouth when I realised something strange was going on; my lips had gone numb. I raised my hands to my face and found it plastered with a huge grin. I tried to knead it away, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Glad it meets your approval. I’ll give you some before you go,” he said, eyeing me bemusedly as I continued my efforts to regain control of my facial muscles. “I swear, you two make the cutest couple. You should see yourselves; two huge enforcers cozied up together like a couple of koalas or something.”
“Eat me, you tree-hugging hippy,” I said.
“Yeah, you compare us to koalas again, and we’ll go medieval on your ass,” Fulton added with a grin.
“And then you come out with something like that. It’s the incongruity of your street punk looks and loving caresses that cracks me up. Now, before you disembowel me, how about some dinner?”
After eager assent from the two of us, Johnny started boiling water and heating up some pasta sauce while Fulton and I watched, pausing occasionally to wipe the drool from our mouths as enticing aromas filled the room. Johnny was a vegetarian, and so he used tofu in his cooking a lot. At first Fult and I had refused to try it, but he eventually wore us down. I don’t know if he does something special to it or what, but I swear it tastes just like meat.
Even without a serious case of the munchies, Fulton and I can really pack it in. Add to that a heavenly red sauce with tofu like Italian sausage and Johnny, aka Mother Hen, piling penne on our plates like there was no tomorrow, and I swear we ate more in one sitting than we ever have in our lives.
Too full to move, we lounged around after that, toking away while we talked about how George Bush was, if not the Anti-Christ himself, then at least a close relative. Actually, Johnny and Fulton talked, and I listened. I didn’t know much about politics, but the little I did had been gleaned from the stoned-intellectual rants of these two. Even though I didn’t understand a lot of what they said, I liked to listen anyway. Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq’s oil fields, nuclear and chemical warfare, foreign policies, it was mostly over my head. Basically, the world was going to hell in a hand basket, and our country was making some real shitty decisions.
When we finally got up to leave, Johnny surprised us both by grabbing us in a tight hug. When he pulled back, his eyes were shiny with unshed tears. “I’m just so happy for you guys. I worry about you, but as long as you have each other, I know you’ll be fine. You deserve this, both of you,” he said, looking hard at me as he spoke. “You deserve each other.”
We walked back to Fulton’s place in silence, holding hands and looking up at the stars, which seemed to be shining brighter than usual tonight. I hoped Johnny had meant what he said, and that Fulton and I would be together forever. I hoped I never forgot how lucky I was to have found someone like Fulton, and to have him love me back. I hoped I really could one day manage to deserve him, in all his perfection. I hoped.
“Fulton Reed, get your ass up here now, boy!”
Barely five minutes after we got in, we were sprawled together on the floor of Fulton’s room when his father called down from the top of the basement stairs, his voice echoing off the concrete walls and taking on a deeper, even more menacing quality than it normally held. He sounded pissed.
“Son of a bitch,” Fulton groaned, dragging himself to his feet. “Guess I’d better go see what his problem is. Hope it’s a terminal disease.”
“I’m coming, too,” I managed between giggles.
“Okay, but be nice. I have to live with the guy. Check him out when he gets real mad; his left eye goes all twitchy.”
I laughed at the image of Fulton’s dad, a perpetually angry, red-faced man with fists the size of canned hams, twitching away like some sort of epileptic. We were still pretty wasted from all the shit we’d smoked, otherwise I doubt we would have been so blasé.
Fulton’s dad was nowhere to be seen, but we found his mother in the far corner of the living room, drawing something, I couldn’t tell what, on the wall with one of those little yellow golf pencils. She turned when she heard us come in, and ran over with a huge smile on her face, pulling Fulton into a bear hug. “Oh Fulton, I’ve missed you!”
Despite the fact that she was clearly under the influence of something or other, I couldn’t help smiling. I really liked Fulton’s mom, she had never been anything but kind to me, and although she was real messed up, you could tell she loved him a lot. Her fiery red hair was all over the place, it looked as if she hadn’t showered for a couple of days (or changed her clothes, for that matter), and her green eyes were darting and wild. Though Fulton had inherited his father’s size, he had the same round face, soft features and cute little button nose as her. I really think that there used to be a lot there once, in her mind I mean, and I would have liked to have known her before all the drugs, or at least to talk to her when she wasn’t high as a kite for once.
She finally let go of Fulton and turned to me, wrapping me in a hug as well. With all these hugs, I was starting to feel like I was on an episode of Full House or something. “Portman darling, I haven’t seen you in ages! Are you keeping my boy happy?”
I had to choke back laughter as I nodded, and I could hear Fulton chortling as well. That was a subplot that would never make it onto the show. His mother seemed not to notice. “Speaking of birthdays, I have a present for you two!” She dragged us back across the room while I tried to remember if anyone had mentioned birthdays.
“I don’t know if they allow pets at that school of yours, but I figure you could find a way to sneak him in,” she said excitedly. She gestured to the wall, upon which she had drawn something that resembled a rabbit, except that it had a long tail, like a cat. “Ta-dah!”
I didn’t know what to say, but Fulton must have been used to that sort of thing, because he shot me a grin, then bent and kissed her on the cheek. “Thanks mom, he’s great. I always wanted a rabbit. What do you say we name him Bigwig, Portman?”
“Uh, yeah. Sure. Thanks a lot, Ms. Reed.” I was still staring at the malformed little creature, trying to figure out what the hell Fult’s mom was on, when his dad came in. He strode over, grabbed Fulton by the upper arm, and hauled him into the middle of the room, all the while swearing at him and waving a piece of paper in his face.
“What the hell do you call this?” he cried.
In the calm, slightly condescending voice that he reserved exclusively for angry authority figures (it always made them madder than hell, and was usually funny, but I wished he’d lay off it today) Fulton said, “That? Oh, that’s a piece of paper. You see, loggers chop down trees and send them to paper mills, where they—” His voice cut off as his father slapped him across the face.
“When I want your lip, smart-ass, I’ll ask for it.”
I saw red in that moment, and started to move toward them, but Fulton’s mother grabbed my wrist and held me back. “Just let it be,” she said softly, and this time I saw real awareness in her eyes. “He likes to fight his own battles, my little Lancelot.”
I don’t think I’ll ever forget those words, nor the sound of her voice as she said them. Sad, tired, resigned, yet tinged with pride at the mention of her son. It made me wonder if she would really want to get clean if she could. She reminded me of this series of sculptures I saw in a book one time. This chick slowly hatches and emerges from his shell. He takes one look at the world around him, and climbs back into the egg. Maybe she was like Fulton, too smart for her own good. Maybe she’d seen the world, and decided she’d rather disappear.
Fulton’s dad grabbed him hard by the back of the neck, and waved the paper under his nose. This time Fulton took it, and as he read it, his face paled slightly. He couldn’t turn his head, but his eyes found mine and held them, and I knew he was trying to tell me something without speaking, though I had no idea what it was.
“So, you’ve been fucking up at school, huh? Huh, you little pussy, huh?” his dad cried, shaking him roughly, practically lifting him off the ground by his neck.
I was so mad I was trembling, but I forced myself to stay calm and tried to think of what to do. Over six feet tall and built like a football linebacker, Fulton’s father probably weighed in at about 270. I doubted I could take him, and besides, what would happen to Fulton if I tried? I knew he’d join in to stop me from getting my ass kicked, but he was right, he had to live with the asshole. Still, I had to do something.
His dad had finally let go of him, but was still yelling loudly. Fulton just stood there, rubbing his neck, a slightly bored look in his eyes, like he’d seen it all before. “So, you like to mouth off at school too, you fucking cunt? You think you’re so goddamned smart. When are you going to learn some respect, you stupid… worthless… little… prick?”
He punctuated each of these last words with a hard smack upside his son’s head, but Fulton didn’t bat an eye, he just straightened his bandanna as he said coolly, “Some people just aren’t worthy of respect.”
With that, his father cocked his arm and backhanded Fulton across the cheek with a vicious slap, knocking him back against the wall. He didn’t make a sound, just turned back to face him with that fierce little grin of his. “Blow me.” His dad hit him again, even harder this time, and a thin line of blood from his lip splattered against the wall. It was enough to finally set me off.
“Leave him alone, you stupid fuck!” I cried. I tried to throw myself between them, but Fulton grabbed me and held me back. I struggled to get free, but his grip on me only tightened. God, he was strong. He backed up, putting some distance between us and his father, who now looked angry enough to kill. Fult was right; his eye did go all twitchy, except I wasn’t in the mood to laugh right now.
“This don’t have anything to do with you kid, so just clear out. I gotta teach my boy some manners.”
“Run,” Fulton whispered as his dad took off his belt and started to move toward us.
“RUN.” He let go of my arms and shoved me toward the front door. As we turned and took off down the hallway, I swore I could hear Fulton’s mom behind us, laughing merrily.
We ran for maybe a dozen blocks before stopping to lean against the brick wall in front of the liquor store to catch our breath. “Jesus Fult, are you alright?
He looked at me for a moment, then shot me a grin. His mouth was full of blood, painting all his teeth red, but the smile was good-natured and genuine. He turned his head and spat a stream of blood onto the ground, wiping his hand across his lips when he was done. “Five by five. So what say we go take Banksie up on his little offer?”
An hour or two later, we were back at Eton. Being nearly two in the morning, we could hardly waltz in the front doors, but the situation was nothing new to us. We took our usual route, climbing one of the big tree that grew against the south side of the building and walking along the roof till we came to our dorm room window, which for obvious reasons we never locked, and slipped inside.
I sat on my bed and watched while Fulton washed the blood from his face and cleaned his cuts with that awful iodine stuff. “I wish he wouldn’t wear that damn ring all the time,” he muttered as he dabbed at his face gingerly.
“If I see that fucker again, I swear to God…”
“Oh, shut up. I got off easy and you know it. Let’s go.”
We sneaked quietly down the hall until we reached Charlie and Adam’s room. I knelt down beside Banks’ bed and shook him gently. “Banksie, Banksie, wake up.”
“Wha? Did I score?” he muttered as he opened his eyes. “Portman? Christ, what are you doing here? What time is it?” he mumbled groggily as he turned on the lamp on the bedside table.
“It’s real late. Sorry to wake you like this, but Fulton and I wanted to know if we can still come with you tomorrow.”
Adam propped himself up on his elbow and rubbed his eyes sleepily. “Huh? Oh yeah, no problem. But I thought you guys went back home.”
“Uh, yeah, we did, but we decided to come back,” I said quickly.
“Right,” he said, looking from me to Fulton. When he saw Fulton’s face, he did a double take, but didn’t say anything. Just then, we heard some stirring sounds, and Charlie was looking at me, blinking.
“What’s going on? Portman, is that you?”
“It’s nothing, they just wanted to know if they could still come tomorrow. Go back to sleep,” Adam said in a soothing voice.
“Oh, okay. Great.” Charlie closed his eyes and rolled back onto his side. Thank God for that, I thought, otherwise we probably would have had to spend all night making up excuses, and I knew the last thing I felt like doing was fielding anxious questions and listening to a lecture about fighting.
Adam turned back to me and said, “Bus leaves at 6:30, we have to be outside the school by six. Pack before you go to bed, and I’ll come by in the morning to make sure you’re up.”
“Thanks Banksie,” I said. I really was grateful; Adam gave new meaning to the word ‘discreet.”
We slunk back to our room and shoved our few remaining clothes into Fulton’s hockey bag, along with some CD’s and shit, before curling up in my bed. Too worn out to do anything else, we just lay there, our bodies fitting snugly together like a couple of puzzle pieces.
“Guess we’ll have to tell them tomorrow, huh Portman?” Fulton said sleepily.
I wrapped my arm around my boy’s shoulders and squeezed, relishing the little giggle my touch earned. I stroked his hair while he planted little kisses on my neck and I was reminded of his words that night we’d first got together. ‘Everything that’s wrong with my life, you make right.’ God, I only wished that were true. He was right though, everything bad just seemed to fade away when we were together, and for now, I was just happy that he was here, warm and safe beside me. Everything else could wait until morning. We’d deal with it then.
Notes: Sorry this is so late, there were some computer problems at my school, but that didn’t stop me from writing, so check back soon, I should have another instalment posted in a day or two. You’re right Cards, that is from an Everclear song. My best friend loves Everclear, and made me promise to sneak a line in there for him to spot.
More than just strangers who know your name
I joined Connie and Julie and set my bag down beside me, now focussing all my energy on my struggle to stay awake. “Don’t you just love mornings like these?” Julie sighed happily, and I had to suppress the urge to throw something at her. “They’re so full of possibilities, and just think, in about three hours we’ll be at the lodge, and we’ll still have the whole day ahead of us!”
I gave a shudder of revulsion, while Connie, who was used to Julie and her good girl ways, just smiled. “Shut up, Julie,” I muttered.
“Oooh, what’s wrong, Mr. Cranky Pants? Didn’t you get a good sleep?” Connie teased, tickling my chin in that way she knew I hated.
“No. Averman kept me up all night watching old episodes of Blossom.”
“Ha! Now you too know my pain.” I jumped at the sound of Ken’s voice, who seemed to have materialized beside me out of thin air. Kenny had roomed with Averman for a while during the Goodwill Games, and I had only laughed at his complaints of Averman’s obsession. I didn’t think it was so funny anymore.
In an effort to put Joey Lawrence out of my mind as quickly as possible, I changed the subject. “Where are Charlie and Adam? My brother and his friend should be here any minute.”
“I’m here!” a voice called out, and we turned to see Charlie walking towards us, dragging three large suitcases. “Adam’s still trying to wake up the Bashes.”
“Fulton and Portman are coming after all? Awesome!” Kenny said.
I agreed. The Bash Brothers were many things, but boring was not one of them, and having them along promised to liven up the trip considerably. I just never knew what those two were going to do next. As if on cue, the front doors opened and Adam came out, dragging Fulton and Portman by the wrist, both of whom seemed less than pleased, and less than conscious. They stumbled along as they tried to keep up with Banks, who was looking rather harried. When they reached the area where the rest of us were gathered, he let go of their arms with a sigh.
“I gave them some caffeine pills a few minutes ago, but they don’t seem to have taken hold yet. Maybe I should have upped the dosage. I doubt the manufacturers had guys like them in mind when they came up with it.”
Portman immediately closed his eyes and leaned heavily against me, throwing me off-balance and nearly knocking me to the ground. He squinted at me sleepily and mumbled an apology before turning and placing his head on Fulton’s shoulder, who was looking down in bleary-eyed confusion at the tag that emerged from the neck of his shirt to rest against his Adam’s apple. And I thought I wasn’t a morning person.
I leaned toward him and whispered conspiratorially, “Looks like you got your shirt on backwards there, Fult.”
“Huh?” He turned to look at me.
“Shit! What happened to you?” His lower lip was swollen and cut, and his right cheekbone was badly bruised, also sporting a cut just below the eye.
“Damn, Fulton, you get in a fight or something?” Kenny asked with a trace of admiration in his voice.
“Yeah, but you should have seen the other guy,” Fulton said with a smile, stifling a huge yawn.
“So, we have something to tell you guys,” Portman managed between yawns, and as we all turned to face him he shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he fiddled nervously with the buttons on his black leather motorcycle jacket. “Well, you see… um… oh fuck this.” He grabbed Fulton and spun him around, dipping him over his knee like a tango dancer and kissing him passionately.
After they separated, nobody said anything for a long while. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Connie mumbled disbelievingly.
When Fulton and Portman only smiled slightly and shook their heads, I knew it was for real, and I couldn’t help it, I started to laugh out loud.
“What are you doing? Stop it man, they’ll kill you!” Kenny whispered to me urgently, tugging on my arm.
I finally managed to stop laughing, and put my hands up in a gesture of peace. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you, it’s just the last thing I expected. I mean, what do you guys do, sit in your room hatching plans on how to shock us next?”
To my extreme relief, Portman, who had been looking confused and rather hurt at my outburst, cracked a grin. “You know it, baby.”
Just then, my brother Jacques and his friend Mikey pulled into the parking lot, my brother in his old Chrysler station wagon, and Mikey in a brand new Range Rover. They were both on their way home from NYU for the holidays, and had agreed to drop us all at the bus station on the way. We loaded up the cars in silence, still trying to digest these new developments. Fulton and Portman were gay? I knew the news would take awhile to sink in properly. I mean, come on, the Bash Brothers?
Connie and I got into Jacques’ car, but when Fulton and Portman tried to join us, Charlie held them back. “Oh no, you don’t. Portman, get in the Rover with Adam and Julie. Ken, you go, too. This way we can each grill you for details on the way to the station. I mean, this is big news!”
Portman laughed and hopped in the back seat beside Kenny, nearly squishing him in the process, but Fulton looked horrified. Charlie saw this and smiled. “Relax Fult, it’ll be painless, I promise. Besides, this is what friends do. They tell each other stuff. Otherwise they’re just strangers who know your name.” He spoke gently, patting Fulton on the shoulder as he sat down beside him, but Fulton didn’t look convinced. I wished I was in the SUV, to be honest, because I knew Portman would be far more forthcoming than his (?) boyfriend.
As we drove along, Fulton did his best to answer all the questions we kept firing at him, speaking even softer than usual and looking at the ground as if he wished it would swallow him up. “It was during that weekend in November we went home for the concert… Yeah, longer than that… About a year, I guess… Just you guys and this friend of ours back home… We didn’t want everybody talking about us the whole time… We finally figured fuck it, it sounded like too much fun to pass up… No, not yet… I have no idea… What the HELL kind of question is that?” He shot Charlie a look of mingled shock and amusement.
Charlie just grinned. “Hey, I had to ask. I promise we won’t dwell on all this once we have all the particulars, right?” Connie and I nodded fervently, and he continued, “You guys really threw us off there, you know. I guess I can see it now, I mean, you two are always together and stuff, but you’re still the Bash Brothers. I know Adam and I are no flamers, but it’s just easier to see us that way than you two, I guess.”
“Well anyway, congratulations, Fulton!” Connie said, slapping him on the back, and the uncertain, grateful smile he gave her was enough to break my heart.
“Yeah, welcome to the club,” Charlie said with a grin.
“Yeah, man, good luck,” my brother called back from the driver’s seat. I hadn’t realized he must have heard everything we said.
“It’ll be alright,” I said, “We got through it with Adam and Charlie, so what’s two more?” I spoke with a bit more confidence than I felt. Four gay Ducks, and two of them the most feared enforcers in the league? We were gonna have a hell of a time when this got out, but I guess we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.
We were on the bus, heading north, when I remembered something. I leant over beside me to Connie, and whispered, “Hey Cons, does Julie still have a thing for Fulton?”
Connie winced and nodded. “Yeah, oh man, I totally forgot. I’d better go see how she’s doing.” As she got up I cast a glance around me for Fulton, but he was nowhere in sight. The Ducks took up the last two rows of the bus, each of which was comprised of six seats, split into threes by the aisle running down the middle. I saw Portman seated in the last seat of the last row and called out, “Hey Portman, where’s your boy-toy?”
“In the bathroom. And I’ll be sure to tell him you said that.”
I was already on my feet. I went down the aisle toward the front of the bus, and met Fulton just as he was coming out of the bathroom. It was pretty funny, seeing him try to manoeuvre his sizeable bulk out of the tiny doorway. “Sit down, man, I gotta talk to you.”
Fulton slid into an empty seat, and I took the one beside him as he regarded me apprehensively. “Relax, it’s nothing bad, I just didn’t want Julie to hear.”
“Julie? Why not?”
“It’s just that she’s kind of had a thing for you for a month or two now, and I just thought that with you and Portman coming out—”
“Woah, back up. What do you mean, she has a thing for me? You’re kidding, right?” He looked at me expectantly, but I just shook my head. “Oh. So what should I do?”
He looked utterly perplexed, and once more I had the urge to laugh. It was as if he had never even considered the possibility of a member of the opposite sex being attracted to him before just now, and, knowing Fulton, he probably hadn’t. I just don’t think he sees himself as a valuable commodity.
“You might want to talk to her, just see if she’s okay.”
We stood up and headed back to the others. Connie was back, so I nudged Fulton in the direction of Julie’s seat. “You’ll be fine.” He gave me a weak smile, took a deep breath, squared his shoulders and walked over to where Julie was sitting, looking out the window.
“Hey Jules, can I talk to you a sec?”
“Hey Jules, can I talk you a sec?”
I could only nod wordlessly and gesture to the seat beside me, where he sat down. He didn’t speak for awhile, just sat there looking down with his hands between his knees. I thought I knew what he had come to say, and I wanted to make this easier for him, but I didn’t know how.
“Guy, um… he told me that you, uh…”
“Yeah, I did.”
He looked up hopefully. “But not anymore?”
“Well, it seems kind of stupid, now that I know you’re gay,” I said, a hint of bitterness creeping into my voice.
He looked at me with such a stricken expression that I would have done anything to take my words back. “I’m sorry, Julie. I didn’t mean to hurt you, or cause any trouble—”
“No, no,” I broke in. “I’m sorry. It’s not your fault you’re gay, or that I have a stupid crush on you. I’ll get over it.”
“Have you ever had a boyfriend?” he asked me timidly.
“Not really. I never had time. I always figured if I did get one he’d have to play hockey with me, or else I’d never see him.”
“Listen, I know it’s not my place but…”
“It’s Kenny. He likes you.”
“Kenny? Are you sure?”
“Oh yeah. Not to push anything on you, but he’s really great.”
“Yeah, I know, I just never thought…”
“Well maybe you should.” And with that, he got up and went back to join Portman, leaving me alone with my thoughts, which were now threatening to break the speed of light.
Kenny? Kenny Wu? I looked over to where he was sitting beside Adam. He was kneeling on his seat and talking to the Bashes over the headrest, since Charlie and Adam seemed to be occupied with each other for the moment. He threw his head back and laughed over something Fulton said, and a light seemed to go off inside of me.
Careful, Julie, he doesn’t deserve to be a rebound guy. I knew that, but I also knew that since I’d never gone out with Fulton, he didn’t exactly qualify as a rebound. Besides, how cool would that be? Charlie and Adam, Connie and Guy, Fulton and Portman and Julie and Ken. I liked the sound of that, I thought to myself, turning the situation over in my head as I stared out the window once more. I tried to think about it calmly and rationally, consider all the angles. I liked to think things through before I got into them, because I liked to succeed at what I did. Still, feelings should play the largest role in something like this, right? How did I feel about this? I wasn’t sure. Kenny Wu? Maybe. Maybe.
Notes: *As I began what will likely be several chapters set during the trip, I knew I would have to try something different. I have a lot to get done with my Ducks over two weeks and a few thousand words, and lately I’ve been having trouble keeping my entries to a reasonable length, so I figured multiple POV’s were the best way to go. Look for more of it in the next couple chapters, and forgive me for forgoing some of the depth I wish I could add for the sake of cramming more stuff in there; I want some developments for all the characters, not just the Bashes, so the scenes will be shorter than average. I’ll do my best, though.*
Hey, this brownie tastes a little funny
Author’s Notes: Before we begin I must say that I know next to nothing about American geography, and as I was too lazy to take the time to educate myself, my ignorance will likely show through in this chapter. I don’t know if you can buy property in a national park, but the Banks’ have done so here. The cabin the Ducks are staying in is located in northern Minnesota, and there is lots of snow. Whether this is accurate or not, I am not sure. If not, please accept my humble apologies.
The first thought that went through my head when I saw the place was: “This isn’t a hunting lodge, it’s a goddamned ski resort!”
Since the cabin was located in a national park, the Greyhound dropped us off at the parks and wildlife centre, where a couple of rangers were kind enough to take us up in their Jeeps. I don’t know what we would have done if they hadn’t, but Adam seemed all buddy-buddy with them, so maybe his family is paying them off or something.
The lodge was huge and sprawling, its back half supported by stilts since it overlooked a lake, frozen now in wintertime but still beautiful. Someone had gone to pains to ensure the rustic look; the cabin was made of logs that had been stained a deep cherry red, but it still screamed money. There was a large clear area in front of the cabin, and then the forest began, enveloping it on all sides, even where it bordered the lake. I shuddered at the thought of getting lost in there.
There was knee-deep snow all around us, piled all the way up to the cabin’s windows in huge drifts, and icicles hung from the eaves. We walked up the path leading to the front door, dragging our bags behind us. All the snow had been shovelled clear, presumably by those trusty rangers (they have got to be getting kickbacks for this). We went inside, but not before I noticed what appeared to be a three-car garage jutting out of the cabin’s right side.
“Fuck me, Conway, your boyfriend is loaded!” Portman exclaimed, dropping his bag and looking around in amazement. I had to agree with his assessment; this place must have cost more money than my mother could make in her lifetime. The entrance hallway led onto an enormous living room filled with leather couches and easy chairs and a gigantic fireplace at one end, which was already cracking and popping merrily. Those rangers really knew what side their bread was buttered on. The ceiling was vaulted all the way to the roof of the cabin, and a spiral staircase wound its way up to a balcony on the second floor, which I assumed had bedrooms and stuff.
Adam gestured to a hallway leading out of the living room. “Kitchen and bathroom are through there, on the left hand side. Pool’s to the right…”
“You’ve got to be shitting me,” I heard Connie mutter.
Adam just smiled and continued talking. “Bedrooms and the other bathroom are up top. There are four bedrooms—” smothered gasps from some of the Ducks, “so I’m not sure how it’ll work, but I guess we can go check it out.”
After a short debate, it was decided that Adam and I would stay in his room, while Julie and Connie would take one guest room, and Guy and Ken the other. The guest rooms were connected by a shared door, so I figured there might be some clandestine visits going on at night, and maybe not just between Connie and Guy. I had seen Julie eyeing Kenny with an expression I couldn’t quite read all through the bus trip. The Bashes, it was determined, would lodge in Adam’s parents’ room, mainly because the king-sized bed in there was the only one big enough to hold them both.
After we’d dropped off our bags and looked around a bit, we adjourned to the living room, sprawling out on the couches or, in the case of Fulton and Portman, stretched out on the floor in front of the fire like a couple of basset hounds. It was hard to believe it was barely eleven in the morning; it felt like much later. Speaking of hard to believe… I cast a glance toward the Bashes. Fulton was lying with his head on Portman’s stomach, and Portman was twirling his fingers absent-mindedly through Fulton’s hair as he looked around in awe. From the way they were acting, you’d think they’d been together for three years instead of three weeks. They just seemed so… comfortable with each other. When Adam and I first got together, we were all hot and heavy, but also pretty awkward and uncertain, not really sure where to go next, or how far was too far, or anything like that. Well, the Bash Brothers were such atypical people, I guess it stood to reason that their relationship would be far from average, as well.
“So exactly how far are we from civilisation, Adam?” Julie asked.
“Well, there are five other cabins in this park, but there’s no one in them now. The nearest town is at least an hour’s drive away, but there’s a little strip of stores down by the ranger station. That reminds me, someone will have to go down there today, we don’t have much in the way of food—”
“Fulton and me will go,” Portman said so quickly and eagerly that we all turned to look at him.
Adam grinned. “Ah, so I take it you two looked in the garage, huh?” Portman nodded sheepishly. “Yeah, we have a couple of snowmobiles, that’s how we get down to the station and back in the winter.”
“Just tell us what to get and we’ll go pick it up,” Portman said, getting to his feet.
“Yeah, right now, if you like,” Fulton added.
“Hold on guys, we’ll make a list,” said Julie, pulling a notepad and pen out of her shoulder bag. “Does anyone know how to cook?” A few head shakes and mumbled negations gave her all the answer she needed. “So we’re going to live off cereal and Kraft Dinner for two weeks?”
“I can cook a little, but it’s all Chinese stuff,” Kenny said. “I doubt they’d carry much of it in a little general store.”
I saw Fulton elbow Portman in the ribs. “What is it?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Portman replied. “Except that I can sort of cook a little.”
Fulton grinned wickedly and poked him in the side. “Oh, don’t be modest, honey,” he said, ignoring Portman’s icy glare. “Hasn’t Portman told you? He wants to be a chef when he grows up.”
“You are so dead,” Portman snarled, and the next thing I knew they were rolling around on the ground, and Connie had to jump out of the way to avoid being squashed. Portman managed to pin Fulton to the ground, and was sitting on his chest looking very pleased with himself. “Take it back. Tell them I don’t want to be a chef.”
“Oh, right, I forgot! You want to be a ballet dancer now, don’t you?” Fulton said mischievously, and we all laughed at the image of Portman doing Swan Lake in a leotard.
“Oooh, I’m going to kill you! Take it back or I’ll spit on your face!” Portman cried, leaning over so his face was directly above Fulton’s, who was squirming around, trying to get free.
“No, I’ve had enough of this lie!” Fulton cried melodramatically. “You have to stop trying to hide who you are! Tell them the truth; that the Dean Portman they know is a sham! The real Portman loves to cook, he’s knitting a sweater for his mother, his favourite colour is pink, and he listens to Mariah Carey!”
The rest of us were practically in tears from laughing so hard and Guy called out, “It’s okay, Portman, you don’t have to be ashamed—”
“I’m not ashamed!” Portman bellowed, his face red with frustration.
“You don’t have to lie to us anymore,” I said soothingly, trying to keep a straight face.
“Yeah, Portman, they don’t care, they love you anyway,” Fulton grinned. “Tell them that your favourite movie is Message in a Bottle, and that whenever you see it, you hide away in the bathroom and have yourself a good cry.”
“Oh, that’s it,” Portman cried, throwing up his arms in exasperation. In doing so, he let go of Fulton’s wrists, who immediately punched his boyfriend in the stomach and took off, leaving poor Portman gasping for breath. Moments later he was on his feet, chasing after Fulton, who had taken off up the stairs.
We all listened in silent amusement to the thudding of their feet as they tore around after each other. A minute or two later, they reappeared, Portman holding Fulton in a headlock of sorts. They were both panting and grinning as Portman dragged his catch towards us. “Say it.”
“Okay, okay. I apologise for my earlier comments, especially anything that insulted Portman’s manhood or threatened his reputation; he does not in fact, listen to Mariah Carey.”
“Thank you!” Portman cried, releasing his grip and throwing up his arms, this time in victory.
“Okay, so you guys are officially insane,” Adam said calmly. “Here’s a list of things we need, if you see anything else, just get it. My parents have a line of credit at the store, so they’ll just charge it to them.”
“Okay. See ya!” And the Bash Brothers were out the door. Moments later we heard the roar of engines, and as we looked out the window we saw two snowmobiles go tearing out of the garage and take off down the road at breakneck speed.
“You know,” Connie said thoughtfully. “I thought their being gay was somehow going to change things, but it hasn’t. They’re exactly the same as they used to be, aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” Kenny agreed. “Just a little more snuggly.”
“What say we take advantage of their absence and try out the pool?” Adam suggested. “If we wait till they come back, you know they’ll spend the whole time dunking us.”
We all agreed, and as we went upstairs to get changed, my thoughts were filled with one thing and one thing only: Adam in a Speedo. Yowza.
“Don’t do it!”
I looked up in surprise, my mouth full of brownie. Fulton and Portman, who had been cozied up in front of the fire, had leapt to their feet and were running towards me.
I swallowed guiltily. “I’m sorry, were you guys saving these or something?”
We had been here at Banks’ cabin for eight days now; it was hard to believe the trip was more than halfway over, it felt like we’d just got here. It had been snowing pretty much the entire time, but nobody was complaining. We played hockey on the frozen lake and waged tagteam snowball wars. Everyone took delight in the twisted snow sculptures the Bashes kept making. Today, the newest addition to “Frosty’s House of Horrors” as Portman called it, had included one snowman stabbing another to death with a pair of scissors, and the decapitated head of another unfortunate snowperson. Both “creations” came complete with red food colouring in the place of blood, and the pair had seen fit to place the severed head on the front stoop, ring the bell and run away, giving poor Adam a hell of a shock when he opened the door.
With regards to our culinary concerns, all had worked out fine; Portman hadn’t been exaggerating when he said he could cook. He made everything from hamburgers to scrambled eggs to pizza and baked potatoes; he had prepared every single meal we’d eaten, and it was all damn good, too. Even though he had been only playfully enraged by Fulton’s teasings about his masculinity, those of us small enough to be injured in a wrestling match with him were unwilling to risk incurring his wrath, and made certain not to make jokes about it.
Charlie, Adam, Connie and Guy had gone out snowmobiling, and the rest of us were hanging around in the living room; Portman had just put a lasagne in the oven for when the others got back in an hour or two. It was so cute watching him cook; Fulton was always right beside him, trying to help out, but from what I saw he did more harm than good, though Portman didn’t seem to mind.
There were brownies cooling on two of the metal racks by the sink, and they smelled so good that I’d eaten one. It had been delectable, all warm and gooey, but I immediately regretted my decision when I saw the expressions on the Bashes faces. They looked at each other in dismay.
“Anything we can do now, Fult?”
“Nothing short of inducing vomiting.”
I looked at them in confusion. “Look, I’m really sorry, I just thought—”
“What’s up, guys?” Julie, who had been reading in the living room, had evidently heard the commotion and had come over to see what all the fuss was about.
“Kenny ate one of our brownies,” Portman said, struggling to hold back a smile.
“So? You made two whole batches.”
“Julie, he had one of our special brownies. The other batch were regular ones for you guys.”
“Oh. You mean…”
“He means Kenny here’s got about half an hour before he gets messed with real good,” Fulton finished.
“Oops,” I said lamely.
Portman put his hands on his hips and looked at me angrily; I was scared for a moment until I realised he was kidding. “Do you have any idea what you’ve just done? Now Fult and I’ll have to have one too, so you don’t trip out alone.”
“Yeah,” Fulton said, glaring at me as he crammed an entire brownie into his mouth at once. “Damn you, Kenny Wu.”
“What the hell,” Julie said as she reached for the tray.
“You sure you want to do that Jules?” Portman asked. “They’re pretty hard-core.”
She smiled at him sweetly, and I felt my knees get watery. “I can take care of myself, thanks.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Portman said admiringly, as he bit into his own chocolatey treat.
I had been sweet on Julie for some time now, but I’d never come close to working up enough courage to ask her out. You’d think that my dream would seem less impossible now that I was hanging out with her so much more, but in fact, the opposite was true. The more time I spent with her, the more I got to know her, and the more I got to know her, the more certain I was that she was the very embodiment of perfection, and that there was no way in hell she’d ever go out with me.
The only person I had told about all this was Fulton, after he’d come to my dorm to thank me for my support during the whole Adam/Charlie thing. I don’t even remember how it happened, but the next thing I knew I was telling him all about my unrequited crush.
“Portman, why don’t you set the timer on the oven so the lasagne doesn’t burn,” Fulton said. “And Julie, can you put the rest of the pot brownies away so we don’t have any more accidents?”
As Portman and Julie set about their tasks, Fulton grabbed me by the arm and hauled me into the bathroom, shutting the door behind us. “Dude, this is your chance!” he whispered excitedly.
“With Julie, man! It’s perfect, you can tell her how you feel, and if it doesn’t work, blame it on the brownie!”
I had to admit, the plan was very appealing to my cowardly sensibilities. “But what if she only says yes because she’s high?”
“Weed doesn’t work like that. Besides, she likes you, believe me.” He shoved me towards the door. “Come on Kenny, you can do it!”
Once the effects of the brownie took hold, all plans for winning the heart of Julie Gaffney faded from my mind, along with all other coherent thoughts, replaced by a lot of crazy shit. My mind is still going through the events of that evening, trying to figure out how one thing led to another. The fact of the matter is that I did profess my feelings to Julie, and she seemed to reciprocate, because when the others came back, it was to find her rubbing chocolate fudge icing all over my chest and licking it off seductively, while Fulton and Portman did the same on the couch beside us. Somewhere in between all this was a snow angel contest, a really weird game of Clue, and Julie giving makeovers to the three of us so we looked like $20 hookers. Like I said, as far as the motivations behind the actions of that night go, things get pretty hazy, but I don’t regret a single thing I did, and as long as Julie doesn’t either, this will have to go down in history as one of the best nights I’ve ever had.
I was ten when I first asked Connie to go with me, even though I was quite unsure of what exactly this entailed. She said yes, and we had been “Connie and Guy” ever since. As far as I was concerned, there was only one girl in the world for me, and Connie was she. Though the Ducks often teased us about being an old couple, I had little fear that we were getting stale on nights like these, as she led me by the hand down the darkened staircase to the first floor of Banks’ lodge.
Connie and I took it pretty slow in the beginning, I was almost twelve before we had our first kiss, but things started to pick up during the Goodwill Games, at Connie’s insistence. We agreed that we would sleep together if we placed first in the tournament, and had been doing the beast with two backs a couple times a week ever since, and it had been a nightly occurrence here at the lodge.
Don’t get me wrong, Connie was no pervert; she didn’t have any sick fetishes or weird demands or anything. She was like that girl in the song, she “just liked getting her fuck on.” And don’t think I was complaining, either; I am a guy after all, it’s just kind of weird when your girlfriend is always hornier than you.
The thing is, Connie liked having this secret life that no one else knew about, and she definitely got off on the danger of doing it in places where she knew we might get caught, like the old eraser room at Eden Hall, or in her parents’ bedroom while they were out getting groceries or something. Me, I just liked being with her, and the sex thing had come as a pleasant surprise.
At first, Connie’s insatiable appetite for sex had worried me, but as time passed I got used to it, and now it was one of those cute little things about her that no one else knew, albeit one that took up a lot of our spare time. I didn’t think it was anything to worry about now, I mean, everybody expresses their passion in different ways, and besides, who’s to say that guys have a monopoly on wanting sex all the time? Fulton and Portman liked to smoke pot, and my girlfriend liked to fuck, what’s the difference?
By now we had reached the living room, and Connie hauled me over and pulled me down on top of her onto one of the couches, taking off my shirt as she made those sexy little purring noises with her tongue. “Uh, Cons, don’t you think we should head downstairs? What if someone comes down?”
“We’ll be fine, don’t worry about it,” she muttered, sucking hard on my left nipple as she undid my jeans. “God Guy, you’re so hot.”
I gave up trying to resist and started taking off her nightgown. Let the Bashes come down for a midnight snack and walk in on us in full swing, I was too jazzed up to care. I thought of all the guys who would give their right arm for a girl like mine, and this wasn’t even one of the reasons I loved her. I read once that a man’s sex drive peaks at age 19, while a woman’s doesn’t peak until 35. If that was the case, I only hoped I could keep up.
Notes: *Long chapter, I know, it’s all this multiple POV stuff. I desperately wish I were able to better develop these stories, but there just isn’t enough room. It’s taken me longer than usual to post this, because I’m having a hell of a time writing these cabin chapters. There are so many things I wanted to include that I’m being forced to leave out. I planned for Fulton to have this big reveal-a-thon, but I’ve had to postpone that for when they get back to school. I know this is belated, but I’m feeling rather chatty today, and I’d like to take this time to defend my “shameless political plug-in” as BennyP called it, referring, I assume, to George Bush being compared to the Antichrist. I understand how this could be seen as such, and I won’t deny that I am not the biggest fan of the Bush administration, but I’d like to say that I took the time to think about what the political beliefs of my Ducks would be, and it doesn’t take a lot to see that they’d be mostly left-wingers. Young, poor and idealistic are three main indicators, and they satisfy all of these. The world is in a complete state of turmoil right now, and while I generally prefer to keep my Ducks removed from all that chaos, I do toss in a nugget from time to time. I don’t mean to offend any fragile American sensibilities, but feel free to retaliate by accusing me of living in an igloo, or of pronouncing “about” “aboot,” or anything like that.*
Late one night
CRACK! The shock of the impact, combined with the pain, which was brief but intense as my entire body cried out at once, left me disOrionted, and I floundered about, unsure which way was up. Strong arms grabbed me around the middle and hauled me in a direction that felt like downwards until I broke the surface, my head spinning as my eyes burned and my hair clung to my face in thick wet clumps, obscuring my vision. I struggled to fill my angrily protesting lungs with air, coughing and spitting out water as I tried to get my bearings.
“Are you okay?” Portman’s concerned face appeared before mine.
“Dandy,” I said sarcastically. “Are we finished now?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re just not cut out for swimming, huh?”
“Gee, what tipped you off?”
“Oh, don’t be so grouchy.”
“I have every right to be grouchy. This was your idea, genius.”
“Hey, it’s not like you didn’t make any progress.”
“I can float and tread water. Big deal, I can still barely make it to the other end of the pool to the other, and your diving tips were a flop, so to speak.” I gestured to my body, which had turned bright red from the impact with the water.
Portman giggled. “Well, at least it gave your pasty-ass skin some colour. You look like a lobster.”
“Yeah, a lobster with rocks tied to his ankles.”
“Oh, cheer up, you’re not that bad.” I looked at him, and he grinned. “Okay, you are, but who cares? If we’re ever stuck on a sinking ship, I’ll save you. Besides, your talents lie elsewhere.”
Now that we were in the armpit-deep water of the middle of the pool, I was more at ease, and I laughed as Portman began to swim around me in tight little circles, eyeing me like a shark and tugging seductively on the waistband of the old cutoff jeans I was wearing. I glanced around me. No one was around. I’d never been skinny dipping before, but I figured this was probably as good a time as any to try it out. It was the middle of the night, the only time I would agree to swimming lessons because the other Ducks would all be in bed. Or so I thought.
“Sshhh!” I giggled as Charlie raced down the stairs ahead of me. “You’ll wake the others!”
“Are you kidding? A nuclear war wouldn’t wake the Bashes up!”
He was probably right, but I was nervous all the same. It was mostly excitement; when Charlie woke me up at two in the morning and suggested we go swimming, there was a glow in his eyes that I’d seen before. I knew he planned for this late-night excursion to turn romantic, and I was all for that, but I wasn’t so fond of the idea of one of the Ducks walking in on the two of us “in flagrante dilecto.”
“Relax, Adam,” Charlie said as he opened the door leading to the pool and leaned against the doorway. “Everyone’s asleep. We’ll have the whole place to ourse…”
His voice trailed off as he saw my eyes fixate on something behind him. “What is it?” He turned around. “Oh shit!”
It looked as if someone had beaten us to the punch. Fulton and Portman were in the shallow end of the pool, getting it on like there was no tomorrow. Fulton was up against the wall, and Portman’s legs were wrapped tight around his waist. They looked up at the sound of Charlie’s voice, and the look of naked surprise on Portman’s face would have been funny if I hadn’t been so taken aback myself.
“What are you guys doing here?” Charlie asked in open astonishment.
“The same thing you two came down here to do, I imagine,” Fulton said dryly, and it was then that I noticed two pairs of soggy cutoff jeans draped over the pool’s edge.
“Charlie, they’re naked, let’s get out of here,” I whispered, tugging on his arm.
“But… but…” Disappointment was etched across my boyfriend’s face, and I knew how he felt. We weren’t exactly what you would call wild and spontaneous; this was obviously Charlie’s idea of a crazy romantic gesture, and I had been looking forward to it as well. We didn’t do things like this very often.
“Forget it,” Fulton said, grabbing one pair of shorts and tossing the other to Portman, who was looking decidedly displeased. “We’ll be out of your way in a sec.”
“Fult, you can’t be serious! We—”
“I know somewhere we can go,” he broke in with a smile, giving Portman a playful little pinch. “You’ll love it, I promise, and we can finish what we started.”
That quelled Portman’s protests in a hurry, and moments later they were dressed and out of the pool. I handed them some extra towels, and as they left, Portman patted Charlie’s arm and grinned wickedly. “Have fun, you guys. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Well, that didn’t rule out much, did it?
“You know,” Charlie said slyly, looking at me out of the corner of his eye as we walked hand in hand down to the deep end. “I think Fulton and Portman had the right idea. Bathing suits are overrated, don’t you think?”
I turned to face him, and when I did I saw Charlie, the same Charlie who had swept me off my feet all those months ago, who had showed me what I wanted before I even knew it myself. He was something I hadn’t expected; he wasn’t part of the careful plan I had laid out for myself, and while that scared me, it thrilled me too. I needed a wild card like him in my life, something I didn’t understand and couldn’t control.
Things had been difficult for us lately, what with coming out to the Ducks and all, and we had been doing a lot of arguing. Charlie had already told his mother about us, and he wanted me to do the same, but I was stalling. I wasn’t sure if I could tell my dad, and I didn’t mean right now, I meant ever. I had never shown him the person I was when I was with the Ducks, Charlie in particular; I didn’t think he’d approve.
For what felt like a long time, Charlie and I had been so caught up in what other people thought of us, that we had begun to lose sight of what was really important, of why we were together in the first place. Well, not anymore. I ran my fingers down my boyfriend’s cheeks, and kissed him delicately on the corner of his mouth. I backed up a step, holding him at arm’s length, and tilted my chin downwards, looking up at him in that way that always made him go crazy. Then I turned away, slowly stepped out of my red Speedo, and slipped quietly into the pool.
The water was a clear, light blue, reflecting back the yellow lights that lined the walls of the pool. I watched Charlie’s distorted reflection as he fumbled eagerly with his swimming trunks and dove into the pool headfirst. He emerged right in front of me, his head popping out of the water like a dolphin. I backed up slowly, still giving him that look. I had picked it up from the actresses in those old black and white movies of the forties and fifties that I loved to watch.
“Come and get me, Mr. Conway.” I was flirting like all hell, and it was working. Charlie swam towards me, his eyes fixed on mine, his mouth open slightly. He was practically drooling.
It felt good, being wanted so badly by somebody else, but it felt even better wanting them just as badly in return. Our faces were almost touching now, and I could feel Charlie’s breath, warm and soft like a gentle breeze against my cheek.
Adam, stop, this is crazy. What would your father say? It was the voice in my head that always made itself heard when I was about to get intimate with Charlie. It used to bother me, but I was getting better and better at ignoring it. There was a part of me that knew the voice was right, that this was just going to complicate things and make my life difficult, but there was also a part of me that said screw it, that it was worth any price, just to feel the way I was feeling now. It was worth it, because of the way Charlie made me feel, not just about him, but about myself as well. He brought out something inside me, a fire, a passion, that I didn’t know I had. He made me feel so good and so bad at the same time. My emotions were all roiling up inside of me and as I pulled him in close, I could feel the perfect little life I had been building for myself start to slip away, but it was replaced by something different, something better. Maybe there could be beauty in chaos, after all.
“But you still haven’t told me how it happened!”
“To be honest, I’m not really sure.”
“You’re not sure? Who made the first move?”
“Well, I guess I did, but it was complicated.”
“What do you mean? Why’d you do it?”
“I did it because he told me that he thought I was beautiful and amazing, and because I knew he’d never do it himself, and because I was as high as a kite… I don’t know, I’m still pretty confused.”
“Wow. But you’re glad you did, right? Even the icing…”
“Oh, would you shut up about that already?”
“No way in hell! It isn’t every day I walk in on four of my friends getting wet and wild with confectioneries. I still can’t believe it, you and Kenny. Hey, we can go on double dates together!”
It had been several days since what Connie and the others had come to refer to as “the icing incident,” and I was still trying to digest it all. Ever since Fulton told me about Kenny, I had been watching him, and the more I did, the more I liked the idea of making the sweet little Asian boy mine. I didn’t know if I had subconsciously used the effects of the brownie to do what I didn’t feel I was free to do under ordinary circumstances, but I didn’t regret a thing. Had I really sucked on Kenny’s chest for half an hour? I knew I was never going to live it down. Connie would tell the rest of the team, and Kenny and I would take the brunt of it, because everyone was a bit wary about teasing the Bashes, and besides, everyone was used to them doing weird things. I was dreading Averman and Goldberg’s reactions in particular, but I was also secretly pleased. Everyone thought I was such a golden girl, it’d be nice to shed that image for awhile.
Kenny and I had spent a lot of time alone together since that night, but we hadn’t done anything but talk. It was good, I guess, because I felt I was really getting to know him, but he’d only kissed me twice, and they had both been sweet little goodnight kisses. Frankly, I was starting to think I’d never get any action at this rate, and I thought I’d ask Connie, you know, to see if this was normal.
“Connie, how long were you and Guy dating before, you know…”
“He kissed me, I went down on him, we had sex, what?”
“The last one.”
“Two and a half years, but we’d been going out since we were ten, so that can’t really be applied to your situation. Why, are you worried about it or something?”
“No, just curious. Connie, did you ever want more than Guy was giving? I mean, Kenny’s barely touched me and I was just…”
“Of course I did! Hell, I had to practically beg him to sleep with me the first time. He was so worried about going too far, that he never went anywhere at all. You know, Jules, there’s nothing wrong with taking the initiative. You did it the first time, and it worked, right? From what you told me, Kenny’s been crushing on you for ages, he’s probably scared to piss you off. You need to let him know it’s okay.”
“You’re right. Besides, who says guys get to make all the decisions?”
“There you go! Oh, and Jules, don’t let him go around kissing your ass all the time. He needs to see you as a normal girl, not some sort of goddess. Idolatry’s no basis for a relationship.”
Damn, I had no idea Connie was so wise about these sorts of things. I’d have to remember to bring her any further questions I had.
Connie had got up from the bed we had been sitting on, and was leaning against the door connecting our room to Kenny and Guy’s. She jerked her thumb over her shoulder and grinned wickedly. “Do you think our boys are asleep yet? Cause I wouldn’t mind getting a little action myself, come to think of it.”
I stood up and went over to join her. I guess I wouldn’t be going to sleep anytime soon. Oh well. Look out, Kenny Wu. Julie the Cat is coming for you.
It was the perfect night for stargazing; the air was cool and clear, and you could see forever. As Portman and I lay on our backs on the roof of the lodge, I took his hand in mine and pressed my face firmly against his, guiding his vision through the night sky with my pointed finger until I found what I was looking for.
“See that? That’s Cassiopeia, the queen. She’s sitting on her throne.” I traced our fingers around the constellation.
“Oh, I see. Cass-ee-oh-pee-ah. Show me another.”
I showed him all the constellations I could find; Navis, the magical ship Poseidon had left in the sky to guide sailors, Orion the mighty hunter, Draco the dragon, Pegasus the winged horse. The moon, swollen and round, hung low in the sky, and Venus and Mars were both clearly visible. It was a beautiful night, and I was grateful to Charlie and Adam for walking in on us like they had.
Portman and I loved to look at stars, and he was always pumping me for information about planets and comets and stuff. I thrived on the quiet evanescence of the night, it made me all romantic and philosophical, and Portman was affected in a similar way. Most of our best conversations had been held in the wee hours of the morning.
“You know,” Portman began slowly, and I could tell immediately that this was something I wanted to hear. “Before I met you and the Ducks, I was happy. I thought my life was great. It was only at night, when I’d lie on my roof or look out the window and watch the stars, that I ever felt differently. It was the only time I wasn’t more than satisfied with what I had, the only time I ever thought that there might be something better out there, that I was missing something important. Then I’d go to sleep and wake up the next morning and wonder what the hell I was thinking, but then you came along, so I guess I had it right the whole time, didn’t I?”
I didn’t say anything. When Portman got like this, you wanted to let him get it all out before he realised what he was saying and got all self-conscious.
“Remember when you told me that I’d be happy no matter where I was, or what I was doing, or who I was with? You’re probably right, but I wouldn’t be happy like this. There are different levels of happiness, and the one I’m on right now is definitely the best. I mean, if you died tomorrow and I was alone for the rest of my life, I still wouldn’t regret a thing. It’d be worth it, just to have the memory of moments like this. Can you imagine what life would be like if we never met, if there were no Ducks? We’d be just like all those other people, the ones who never get to feel like we do, and don’t even know what they’re missing. I can’t think of a worse fate, now that I know there is someone like you in the world.”
A world without Ducks, without Portman? I shuddered, the idea was too awful even to think about. I fished around in my pocket; Portman and I had spent part of the afternoon teaching Julie and Kenny to roll joints, and I thought I had saved one for later. Success! I pulled it out and fired up, willing the thought of a world without Ducks out of my head. The smoke rose slowly into the air and quickly disappeared, and it wasn’t long before it felt like we were doing the same. The rest of the world fell away, leaving only me and Portman, alone together under a great bowl of stars. Soon I could no longer feel the roughness of the shingles beneath my body, nor the cold night air on my face. It was as if we had left our bodies behind us and were riding the Milky Way all the way to eternity.
“I saw eternity the other night/Like a ring of pure and endless light.”
“Where’d you learn that?”
“It’s from a poem, I don’t remember the rest of it.”
“It’s perfect, that’s just what I was feeling. Do you know any others?”
“What, poems? Yeah, a few.”
“Tell me one.”
“Okay, as long as you promise to make me blueberry pancakes tomorrow.”
“Deal.” I tried to think of a poem that fit the occasion. There was one called The Learned Astronomer that I liked, but I couldn’t recall how it began. Finally, I had it.
“I have been one acquainted with the night.I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.I have outwalked the furthest city light.I have looked down the saddest city lane.I have passed by the watchman on his beat,And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.I have stood still and stopped the sound of feetWhen far away an interrupted cryCame over houses from another street,But not to call me back or say goodbye;And further still at an unearthly height,One luminary clock against the skyProclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.I have been one acquainted with the night.”
Portman didn’t say anything for a while, he just smiled at me. “I like that,” he said softly.
“It’s Robert Frost, I’ll show you some of his stuff. You’d like him, he’s not like other poets; he doesn’t hide anything.”
“What did he mean about the clock in the sky, proclaiming things?”
“He was talking about the moon.”
“It’s weird isn’t it, having someone you don’t even know put words to these feelings you’ve had for forever.”
“Yeah,” I sighed happily, blowing a smoke ring.
“Only for you, sweet cheeks. Want me to show you how?”
By the time we finally went back inside, it was near daybreak. We fell asleep on the Banks’ enormous bed, and the next day Portman made blueberry pancakes for breakfast.
Notes: I planned for chapter 8 to be the last camping chapter, but I just couldn’t leave those storylines hanging like that, so there’s still one more, though it is written in a slightly different format than that to which my readers have become accustomed. Hope it works! Faith, I did see the interview you mentioned, I thought it was really good, even though I’m not always such a big fan of our PM. Hey Kelly, did you catch the Vancouver Dallas game? Pretty sweet, huh? The St. Louis one was good too, up till the last half of the third. Rrr. Guess who my favourite player is? Could it be the guy with #44 on his back? The one who scored a hat trick against Dallas, the same one who can smash anything in his way and still handle the puck and stick deftly and gently? I think so! One more thing: Quimby, I have to ask, what exactly does “stoob” mean?
It’s all fun and games until you tell the truth
Author’s Notes: As I mentioned at the end of the last chapter, this entry is written in a different format than the others. Instead of using the first person, I wrote in something I like to call OmniDuck, which uses the third person, yet provides us with insight into all the characters’ thoughts. I wanted it to be a more heady experience than it turned out to be; personally, I’m not sure it works all that well, and this chapter certainly doesn’t live up to the expectations I had when I came up with the idea, but such is life. Here goes, hope you enjoy:
It was half past ten on the last full day of their winter vacation, and most of the Ducks were already up. Four of them were gathered in the kitchen; Adam and Guy were at the table, engaged in an arm wrestling match, while Connie and Kenny looked on in amusement. Charlie was in the shower, Julie was drying her hair, and Fulton and Portman slept on.
As the team’s official cook and his boyfriend were such late risers, the morning ritual included the other six all getting showered and dressed before breakfast. Then, as soon as Fulton and Portman were up, they set about preparing the group’s repast, still dressed only in boxers (boxer briefs for Portman, at Fulton’s behest) and often with their eyes still half glued shut with sleep. Any guilt their friends had about putting them to work when they would clearly rather be in bed was quashed by the sleep deprivation they suffered as a result of the Bashes’ choice of bedtime music, which included the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, L7, Cradle of Filth and other quality artists whose work all contained excessive noise, seemingly designed exclusively to impede their slumber.
There was a heavy thump from the floor above, causing Adam to look up in surprise. This gave Guy the chance he was looking for, and he promptly slammed Adam’s arm down onto the table. Shortly thereafter, Fulton and Portman appeared at the top of the stairs. Muttering incoherencies and rubbing their eyes, they both held tight to the banister for support as they descended; though they were both barely awake, Fulton was snickering and Portman was scowling and rubbing his shoulder.
While they’d been staying at the lodge, the pair had had a bit of a contest going: whoever awoke first did all they could to roll their still sleeping significant other off the bed, causing the aforementioned thump; Fulton had obviously come out on top this morning.
“So, what’s it gonna be?” Portman asked, still rubbing his shoulder and glaring at Fulton, who kept flashing victory signs in the air, much to Portman’s aggravation.
“How about scrambled eggs?” Guy asked.
“With bacon and French toast?” Fulton added hopefully, flashing Portman what he hoped was a charming smile.
While Portman beat the eggs and Fulton sliced up some peppers and green onions, Connie marveled, not for the first time, at the size of the pair. Since the Ducks’ freshman year at Eton, the Bash Brothers had really grown. She remembered so clearly the day Fulton joined D5; up until then, she had been the tallest player on the team, and then Portman had come along and stripped Fulton of the title as well. Now, years later, Portman, though only a sophomore, was at 6’4,”the tallest kid, in school, and Fulton followed closely at 6’2”.
Connie knew that she herself had no future in professional hockey, but the Bashes were another thing altogether; they both looked as if they’d already be at home in the NHL. She supposed the weight training Orion was having them do played a part; Portman’s chest and arms were more sculpted than ever, if that was possible, and Fulton had grown so broad-shouldered and had amassed such bulk that he appeared at least 3 or 4 years older than he actually was.
“Hate to tell you hon, but I think they’re a little gay,” Guy’s voice interrupted Connie’s thoughts. She supposed she had been staring a bit.
“I was just thinking how huge they’ve got.”
“Yeah. You know what it is, don’t you? It’s all the damn milk.”
Put eight friends together in a secluded cabin for two weeks, and they’re bound to find out things about each other that they hadn’t known before. One example of this was that Kenny, despite his size, snored to wake the dead. Another was that Adam listened to classical music. Fulton and Portman? They drank milk.
Now, the Ducks were more than aware of the huge quantities of food their enforcers consumed; Orion kept them on a high-carb diet for the entire hockey season, but no one had been prepared for this. In two weeks, Fulton and Portman had imbided no less than five four-litre jugs of milk; this was not counting what was consumed by the rest of the team. They drank milk at breakfast, lunch, dinner and right before bed, not to mention snacks in between. It was truly an amazing sight.
After breakfast, Fulton and Portman went upstairs to shower while the others did the dishes. It was approaching noon before they headed down to the lake for a little hockey; they had dumped water on the ice the previous evening to smooth it out for today. On their way down, they came across a bloody snowman lying prostrate on the ground, impaled through the chest with a hockey stick, a surprisingly effective look of anguish on his face.
“No wonder you two are always getting sent to see Mr. McNally,” Guy mused, eyeing the sculpture bemusedly.
“Hey, you just don’t understand out art,” Portman protested with a grin.
“Yeah, because I’m not a serial killer.”
The Ducks had been playing hockey almost every day since they arrived. They hadn’t planned it this way, but the backyard lake had proved too tempting to resist, and Adam had an abundance of sticks, pucks and gear in a tool shed beside the cabin; obviously, he practiced a lot when he came up with his family.
After a little warm-up, they spent an hour or so taking shots on Julie. Kenny and Guy had been working on some combination attacks that utilized the former’s speed and agility and the latter’s swift, accurate passes, and sure hands in front of the net. Though the plays were still in the development stages, the Ducks were certain they would prove practically unstoppable for most of the league’s goalies; even Julie’s save average was lowered because of them.
Though they were sad to see their vacation come to an end, the Ducks were also looking forward to showing Orion what they had accomplished over the break. He had been complaining that when they got back to school, they’d have gotten soft. It was pretty much the only thing he’d had to complain about lately, which was really saying something. He certainly couldn’t find fault with their record; they were still undefeated, and the season was more than half over. The Ducks had been a shoe-in for the state championship last year, and no one expected any different for this season. Adam led the scoring race, and several other Ducks topped the list as well, while Julie was far and away the best goalie in the league. Fulton had been working on the accuracy of his slapshot all year and it was finally paying off, making him more dangerous than ever, now that he could aim the puck at the goalie’s weak side.
After shooting practice, they split into teams for a game, replacing Julie and her net with small plastic tubs at either end of the lake, both of which were now severely dented thanks to the force of Fulton’s shots. Adam, Portman, Kenny and Connie went up against Fulton, Guy, Charlie and Julie; this had been the norm for the entire trip. After the first game, it became clear that the Bash Brothers belonged on separate teams (there were some mild injuries involved), and when they protested being split up, it was decided that each couple do the same, and the result had been two surprisingly well matched teams.
Like all Ducks on Ducks matches, the game was fun and light-hearted, but the whole time Adam couldn’t help worrying that he’d fallen behind over the break. While the rest of the Ducks felt quite the opposite (they rarely practiced at all when school was out) Adam was used to using winter break for lots of intensive training, and instead they’d only scrimmaged and fooled around. When I get back to Eton, I’ll start getting to the rink at five instead of six, get an extra hour in before the others show up, he thought to himself. I’ll have to be careful not to wake Charlie though, I don’t want him to—
“Hey Adam, are you okay?” Charlie’s had come up to Adam from behind and put his hand on his shoulder, making the smaller boy jump.
“I just skated right past you with the puck, and you didn’t even try to stop me. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, just spacing, I guess,” Adam said vaguely, then skated off, leaving Charlie alone and slightly hurt.
“I can’t believe we go back to Eton tomorrow,” Connie groaned as she stuck another marshmallow on her roasting stick.
“I know, I keep trying to forget about it, but I can’t,” said Kenny mournfully.
“I keep trying to forget about it too. Know why I can’t? Cause none of you will shut up about it!” Portman cried.
“Okay, point taken,” Charlie said amicably. “Alright Fulton, truth or dare?”
Everyone groaned. It was almost three in the morning, and after a long day of hockey, snowmobiling and other winter fun, as well as a lovely dinner of steak, baked potatoes and corn on the cob, the Ducks had spent the last few hours gathered around the living room fire. They passed the time chatting, cuddling, playing poker and Monopoly—strip versions, of course-and getting drunk off the two forties of vodka Adam had retrieved from the cellar. They belonged to his grandfather, who was both a bit of a lush and a bit senile; he’d never miss them.
For the last little while, they had been playing Truth or Dare, and most of the Ducks stuck to truths, being either too lazy or too inebriated for anything else. Portman and Fulton, however, had chosen dare every time, and the others were having a hard time coming up with new challenges. They had already made Fulton French kiss Connie, put on a fashion show with Mrs. Banks’ evening wear, and prank call Mr. Benson at his house. This last one involved Fulton leaving a message on his answering machine, claiming to be an employee of Adults Only video, and that a certain Bernard Benson had several films overdue, including The Dirty Debutants Do Dallas, Vicious Vixens: Women in Prison part VI, and Whips, Chains, and the People Who Love Them. Let him try and explain that to his wife.
Portman had had to make out with Julie, eat an entire onion, and run naked through the snow to the lake and back while the others watched from the window, except for Fulton, who went outside for a closer look.
“Come on, Fult, can’t you pick truth for once?” pleaded Julie. “We’re all out of ideas.”
“No way, I hate truth.”
“Jules is right,” Charlie said, his words slurring slightly as a result of his concentrated efforts to drink away the knowledge that school began in two days. “From now on, it’s just truth.”
“No buts,” he said, holding out the remaining bottle of vodka. “Have a drink, it’ll loosen you up.”
“Fult, what gives? You discovering the joys of clean living or something?” Guy asked. The others had been wondering the same thing; while every one else was well on the way to being thoroughly trashed, Fulton hadn’t touched a drop, though he had smoked no small amount of weed.
“What joys?” Fulton scoffed as he reached for a special brownie.
“Don’t you drink at all?” Guy asked.
“Not ever?” Kenny asked disbelievingly. Fulton shook his head.
“Alright then,” said Charlie. “That’s my truth: Why not?”
Man, I hate this game, Fulton thought to himself, then sighed and said quietly: “My dad’s a bit of an alcoholic. I’ve always been afraid that if I drink, even just one time, I won’t be able to stop.”
This didn’t come as much of a surprise to the Ducks, even though Portman was the only one who had ever seen Fulton’s parents. He never mentioned them, and the Ducks had long speculated—though none dared to ask directly—as to why. Still, there was a prolonged moment of silence during which everyone wondered how to proceed; they each came to the conclusion that saying nothing was the best way to go, and so the game continued.
Through further truths, it was discovered that Kenny had once walked in on his father in the act of with the San Francisco chief of police, Adam had cheated off Julie during last year’s History final, Charlie had never slept with Linda, but she had gone down on him once, and that, surprise surprise, Connie and Guy had been caught with their pants down on no less than three occasions, in the back stall of a Taco Bell bathroom, inside one of those giant rubber tires that often border playgrounds, and in a service elevator at the mall, which wasn’t quite as out of order as the sign had claimed.
“Okay, here’s a good one for you,” said Adam, looking at Portman with the red-eyed intensity of the very drunk. “When was the last time you cried?”
What the hell? Portman thought. Why do Fulton and I get stuck with these icky questions? He had to think for awhile before he remembered when it was, and when he did, he wished even more heartily that he’d got a different question. “I guess I was ten.”
“Well,” Adam said impatiently. “What happened?”
“You don’t want to hear about it.”
“Yes we do.”
“Believe me, you don’t”
“Oh come on man, don’t leave us dancing like that, uh, I mean hanging,” Kenny said.
“Fine,” Portman sighed. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you. My mother told me she hadn’t wanted a baby. She stuck me in the leg with a clothes hanger while I was in the womb. That’s how I got the scar on my thigh.”
“You said that was from hockey.”
“I lied,” Portman said simply.
It was a night of revelations, alright, and before it was over, Connie and Guy were no longer on speaking terms after Guy admitted that he sometimes feared for his girlfriend’s mental health. Charlie threatened to break it off with Adam if he didn’t come out to his family when it was revealed that this was Adam’s greatest fear. Both Julie and Kenny drank too much and ended up locking themselves in the bathroom for an hour while they prayed to the porcelain gods. And the Bash Brothers? They managed to avoid any serious disagreements by putting off discussion of the issues that arose that night until they returned to school, though Portman did perform a complete strip tease to the theme from Indiana Jones.
It was after five before everyone got to sleep. Adam stayed alone in his room while Charlie took the living room couch. Kenny and Julie passed out together in a bathtub full of vomit and Connie and Guy passed the only sexless night of their vacation, while Fulton and Portman snuggled up in each other’s arms, dreams of slapshots and cross-checks dancing in their heads.
One might expect that the next day would be an unpleasant one, but after the bathroom had been cleaned and the Excedrin had partially relieved the hangovers, it was discovered that no one remembered a thing that had been said the night before. Everyone, that was, except Fulton Reed, who merely filed the previous day’s events away in the Roladex of his mind, where countless other such memories were stored, gathering dust as the years passed, but changing neither in content nor in clarity.
The day when the rains came, or Today’s lesson: pathetic fallacy is alive and well and living at Eton Hall
Author’s Notes: So my Ducks are finally back at Eton Hall, where I find their adventures to be much easier to document. The cabin chapters were so frustrating because I bit off more than I could chew, in wanting to explore all the characters in some depth. Like you, BennyP, I expected more revelations, and it really would have been best to have skipped that period altogether, and later write a separate little insert story about those two weeks spent in northern Minnesota. Oh well. So this is the chapter whose writing I put off as long as I could. Lap it up while you can, because it’s about as angsty as I can stand to get:
No one remembered the last time it had rained like this. Early this morning, the water had begun to fall from the sky in buckets, and since then had shown no signs of abating. Those who were outside when it began quickly rushed home for cover, and those inside stayed there.
The clouds hung low in the sky, grown heavy and bloated with moisture, and you could see the paths that the rain took from the clouds to the earth. The dark, blurry lines connected the two in perfectly parallel diagonal stripes; it looked like an Apollo-sized Freddy Krueger had taken his talons to the sky the way a frustrated artist might slash at his own canvas.
The school’s courtyards and grass fields had turned to swamps, the puddles shin-deep in some places, and if you looked closely you could see the tiny splashes made from the impact whenever another raindrop struck the already water-logged windowsill. It was as if God had grown sick of watching us fuck each other over, and had launched his own war against the earth, sending in an army of millions of angry raindrops to destroy the world by proxy. Well, we all had to die sometime, and I supposed there are worse ways to go than by drowning, but it was the campaign of demoralisation that was getting me down. There were no colours anymore, no black and white, only shades of grey. The rains had swooped down in a preliminary attack and stolen the blues, reds, yellows and all their derivatives, leaving us with the bleakest of all possible worlds.
Portman and I sat on the couch in our attic, looking glumly out the window as destruction rained down on Eton Hall. The rest of the Ducks had been practicing all day; there were only two regular season games left, and Orion wanted to make sure we finished the year undefeated. Portman and I were exempt for the next two days as a result of the shit that had gone down during last week’s game, our second match against Windsor Academy.
The game had been played on our turf, and so with non-biased refereeing, we were up 6-1 by the middle of the third; Portman and I had a field day during all the power plays we got. Then my old nemesis, #29, took a high stick to Portman’s left shoulder, bruising it badly. Naturally, I was all over the guy, but I might have gone a little overboard this time, because it took Orion and both the refs to pull me off him. I was tossed from the game, and the only reason I avoided a longer suspension was because of what that goon did to Portman.
I had taken Portman to see our school sports therapist every day since then. Orion was desperate to have him back in action for Wednesday’s game. The physio guy had nixed any hockey until Monday, and so here we were, an ice pack held tight to Portman’s shoulder by a tensor bandage. Orion had figured the best way to make sure Portman didn’t over-exert his shoulder for a few days was to put me in charge of watching over him. You had to give the guy credit, he knew his team pretty well.
Portman’s injury hadn’t been the only unfortunate occurrence brought about by those Windsor assholes; my game misconduct resulted in yet another sojourn to the guidance councillor, and this time it was serious. McNally was worried that I was choosing a dangerous life path, what with the fighting, the poor grades and attendance and attitude, and the CLOTHES, oh yes, those were the worst of all. Last week there was an alumni meeting at the school, and some very generous benefactors expressed concern upon seeing me walking down the hall. My hair was too long, my pants were always ripped, my shirts often bore troublesome slogans or images, and for God’s sake, I didn’t really think I could wear a peace button on an army jacket, did I? He also said that several teachers had expressed concerns as well (ten to one “several teachers” meant Benson, Benson, and Benson), and he wanted a sit-down with my parents to discuss these “areas of concern.” Now, this wouldn’t ordinarily be much of a problem, but McNally had talked to Orion, and when they compared notes, they discovered that the number Orion had for my house was not the same as McNally’s. Now they knew that Johnny, who came in last year when I was flunking everything, wasn’t my father, and they got my real parents to agree to come into the school on Friday. This was not good.
“What are you gonna do?” Portman asked. It had been several minutes since we’d spoken last, but of course I knew exactly what he was talking about.
“I don’t know, but it’ll be okay. I’ll think of something.”
“Like what? He’s going to kill you.”
“Probably just maim me.”
“How can you joke about this?”
“What else am I gonna do, cry? It’s hardly the end of the world.”
“It wouldn’t be so bad if you did cry; at least I’d know you still have blood running through your veins.”
I looked up sharply. “I’m sorry Fult,” he said miserably. “I didn’t mean that. I’m just really worried, and you don’t seem to care at all.”
“I guess I’m kinda used to it, you know? He’s been like this my whole life, and I don’t expect he’ll change. If I can find a way to avoid a fight, I will, but if not, I’ll just ride it out.”
Portman shook his head and gave me this sad look that made me want to scream. “You shouldn’t have to. It’s not right, or fair, or whatever.”
What was I, a lost puppy? “Don’t do that, don’t you ever pity me. Christ, you’d think I was the only person in the world with shit in my life! Fair? When did you ever start expecting the world to be fair?”
He looked at me without saying anything, until the air grew pregnant with the silence. The sound of the heavy rainfall was clearly audible. It won’t be long now before Noah starts rounding up all the animals, I thought, before Portman gave a sigh and spoke: “Look, if we argue about this, you’ll win. Of course you’ll win. You’re smart, and I’m stupid. You can make words say whatever you want them to, and you always have an answer for everything. But if your dad comes to this meeting, he’s going to tear you limb from limb, and I’m not just going to sit back and watch it happen. I love you too much. Why do you think it’s okay what he does to you?”
I sighed, but I could feel a smile playing at the corners of my mouth. Real stupid all right. “You’re not just going to let this go, are you?”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry Fult, but we have to talk about this.”
“Okay, fine, but can I get some oblivion first?”
“I figured you’d say that.” Portman went to go pry up the loose floorboard in the corner of the room that concealed our stash. “You really like that word, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I sighed, looking out the window at the rain that hammered away on the glass, as if it was trying to drill inside. “I guess I’ve always been a big fan of oblivion.”
“It’s not so much that I think it’s okay, than I figure there’s nothing I can do to stop it,” I said, my voice grown husky from the smoke as I cleared the pipe’s chamber and handed it to Portman. It was really amazing how marijuana could take the sting out of almost any unpleasant situation. The only problem was that I was blowing smoke in more than just the literal sense, and I knew it.
“That’s not much of an answer,” Portman said. Leave it to him to see through my bullshit.
“Why are we even talking about this? What good is it going to do?”
“Because I think you should tell someone. Like Bombay, he’s a lawyer.”
My blood went cold. This was what I had been dreading. I could feel memories start to struggle to the surface of my mind. “You know what would happen then don’t you? They’d take me away.”
“Better than getting beat on all the time.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. I’ve been there, and it’s not. There are worse things you can do to a kid than hit them.”
“What do you mean?”
Portman’s voice was coming from far away. The world seemed slightly off-kilter, like in those old movies where the sound isn’t always synced up to the picture, then everything began to flicker in and out.
FLASH! I was in a bed, staring up at the ceiling. Faces loomed over me, dark, ugly, masked, menacing. I struggled to free myself, but I couldn’t move; my wrists and ankles were bound to the bed.
FLASH! I was in an office; leather chairs, mahogany bookshelves and carefully framed diplomas gave the place a feeling of money and power, but no soul, and the cold that filled the room chilled me to the bone. I was drowning in pills and Ph.D’s, in people who knew what was best for me and were going to save me whether I liked it or not.
Images of soft walls and paper-soled shoes with no laces filled my mind. But it isn’t real, I reminded myself. I can leave whenever I want to…
“Fulton… Fulton!” Portman was shaking my shoulder, and I was grateful for his touch; it breathed warmth into my body, and I could feel the trembling slow down, then stop altogether. I shook my head to clear it of the past, topped off the bowl and took several deep hits before turning to Portman again. I slipped my hand in his and he squeezed it tightly, infusing me with his strength. “Tell me.”
“My dad never let me play sports, he said they were for sissies, so when I joined the Ducks, I had to be careful not to let him find out. He didn’t, until after we won the PeeWee championship, and one of his poker buddies saw a picture of me in the paper and asked him if it wasn’t his kid. I copped an awful licking for that one, the worst ever, I guess. I could barely walk for a couple days, so I didn’t show up at school for awhile. I’d skipped a lot in the weeks before, trying to learn to skate, so they sent a truant officer over to my house. When the guy saw how banged up I was, he called the SS, and they stuck me in a group home until my dad took an anger management class.”
“The SS? Like in Germany…”
“No, like in Social Services. They put me in one of those lock-down homes because of my “history of causing trouble,” and that was no better than juvie, except that it was probably easier to run away from, because I did it all the time. I hated it there, they escorted you to and from school, and I wasn’t allowed to read Poe or anything good because it would “fuel my violent impulses.” They wouldn’t even let me bring my hockey stick. After I ran away the second time, they tried putting me in a foster home with this crazy religious family. They made me pray and recite Bible passages all the time, and if I didn’t they knocked me around more than Dad did, so I ran away. Then they put me with this couple who had two kids, real kids, I mean. They were the worst. They looked all nice and normal, but they treated me like shit. They only took me in for the money, so they could save up for a trip to Disneyland. I slept in the hall closet, and I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. They made sure I only got enough food to get by, so they would turn a better profit. They kept locks on the cupboards and would make chicken for themselves and canned spaghetti for me.
Their kids were real pricks too, two boys, 10 and 15. They would always tease me, and break stuff and then tell their folks it was me, so I’d get in shit. They’d lock me in the closet whenever they got pissed at me, or if someone came over or something. They were a lot like Harry Potter’s aunt and uncle, except she was fat and he was thin. I know it doesn’t sound like that’d be worse that living with my dad, but it was. They made me feel like shit all the time. One day when the kids were teasing me, I flipped out and beat them both up, and that was enough to get me sent to that children’s mental hospital over in St. Paul.”
I spoke quickly and tonelessly, I wanted to get this over with as soon as possible. My stomach was starting to cramp up, and I was getting all trembly again. “It was worse than the group home. There were alarms and bars on the windows so you couldn’t run away, and group therapy with the other kids, as well as individual psych sessions almost every day. The worst thing was the drugs. Whenever I’d get in a fight, or punch a wall or break something, they’d pump me full of medication. It’s the ultimate irony, given the nature of my extracurricular activities, but it was awful. It’s like there’s a curtain between you and the rest of the world, and everything is foggy and unreal. You can’t think or feel much of anything because your brain is just mush.”
“How did you get out?”
“They started giving me daily doses of meds, so I palmed the pills, and after I had built up a stash, I faked an overdose. It was beautiful, I threw up on myself and convulsed and everything. They took me to the hospital, and it was easy to sneak out of there. By the time they found me, my father had been deemed a suitable guardian, and I got to go home. Portman, if they take me away again, they’ll send me straight back there, I know they will.” Now my voice was trembling along with my body as I imagined another stint in that hellhole.
“Okay Fulton, okay. Don’t worry, you’re not going back there, but I still think we have to do something about your dad. I mean, if he kicks your ass you won’t be able to play hockey, and Orion will find out anyway; he’ll probably already be suspicious of the guy after the meeting.”
“You’re right, but I think I can fix that. Tomorrow, we’ll get one of the Ducks to call my house and cancel the meeting, then I’ll call my mom and tell her to come, but not to bring dad.”
Portman sighed and threw up his hands. “Great. But what about the next time? Or the next?”
“Look, it’s not like my life is in danger or anything. Besides, we go to a boarding school. We’re barely home, I can wait another two years.”
“You’re always saying that! Christ Fulton, the guy uses you for an ashtray!”
“It doesn’t hurt as much as you’d think.” I saw Portman’s expression and decided to switch tactics. I wanted this over with. “Besides, what about you? It’s not like of your mom’s boyfriends never pounded on you. What about that Dylan guy? And I’m sure there are others you never told me about.”
I was playing dirty, and I knew it. I slid over until I was pressed up against him, the day’s worth of stubble that covered his face tickling my cheek. “Look, what I’m trying to say is that nobody’s life is perfect, and that sometimes you just have to work with what you have. That would blow if we didn’t have each other—actually, it blows no matter what—but having each other makes it bearable.”
“I get what you’re saying, but if we’re just supposed to roll with the punches, why do you always mouth off to your dad? Why do you make it worse for yourself?”
Ah, the $64,000 question. I had asked myself that very thing many times before. I remembered how scared I used to be of my father, but the fear was always mixed with anger. I hated being scared, it was like giving in. I hated myself for hiding, and for crying when it hurt, so I stopped hiding and crying, and I started yelling back. It only made me get it worse, but it was worth it, because if you could find ways to fight back then you weren’t a victim. After awhile, I even began to see the humour in it all. “If I yell back, then I’m asking for it, and that makes it easier.”
“Do you realise how fucked up that sounds?”
“Yeah, but it’s true. It simplifies things. Otherwise I’d always be asking myself why, and that’s something you never want to do.”
“Cause no way are you gonna like the answer. It could be there’s something wrong with me, and I just bring out the worst in people, but I can’t think like that, or I’d go crazy. I asked my dad once why, and he said because it was all I was good for. That was even worse, so I figured I’d just ignore the question.” I kissed him gently. “It’s okay to feel angry, and I know it’s hard because you want to protect me. I feel the same way about you. Your mom makes me so mad I want to kill her sometimes. The world’s full of assholes, but so long as we never let them come between us, we’ll be alright. Promise me we’ll never let them come between us.”
“I promise,” he whispered, pressing my head against his chest.
Before long we got to snuggling, then kissing, and as we made love on the dusty old couch, I imagined that we were really in a field of heather and thick green grass that tickled our naked bodies. There were pink ladyslippers between my toes, and when a katydid hopped onto Portman’s shoulder, neither of us moved to flick it away. The sun was bright, the sky was cloudless and the world was perfect as we rolled around on the grass, laughing away the very idea of sadness. It was vague and intangible, and it didn’t belong here. Happiness lived here, thick and creamy and edible, and it kept everything else at bay.
And what of that other world, you ask? What of reality? I have always scoffed at that word, and at the people who put such importance into it. When Dean and I come together, we form a whole greater than the sum of our parts; we come together to defy reality. But if you must know, in that other world of imperfect people and unhappy endings, we weren’t rolling around in a field of grass, we were on a squeaky old couch, and we fell off twice, banging Portman’s injured shoulder and causing him to cry out in pain.
In that world we left our socks on while we had sex, and Portman had to help me get my pants off because my shoes got stuck in the legs. In this world, I thought to myself as I fumbled to get my shirt back on, we have school, and I have scars, and we’re both going to get old and die. I’d rather be making love in a field of heather and katydids.
“Hey Fulton,” Portman called from over by the window. “Come look at this.”
I went over to join him, my t-shirt still tangled in my arms. “What is it?”
“Look.” He pointed, and I followed his gaze out the window.
It had stopped raining.
Notes: Whew! Like Fulton, I’m glad that’s finally over with. The Mighty Ducks are in the playoffs, so let’s all wish them luck, only not as much luck as Vancouver. I’m not going to mention a certain loss to L.A., because that will be forgotten when we cream St. Louis in the quarterfinals. Is it just Canadian cities that go crazy with hockey fever come playoff time? Hockey is everywhere, and I love it. I know this was a long entry, and you guys are probably sick of my blathering, but I just have to share a wonderful piece of news: I finally got my copy of the new Elden Henson movie, Cheats! Oh, happy day! And not only that, I just found out he’s filming another one as we speak! Sheer bliss! Who needs heroin when you have Elden?
Ah, to be a fly on that freshly waxed floor!
#7. Les etudiants _________ a l’ecole a 7h demain matin. a) arrivraient b) viennent c) sont arrives d) arrivront
What a stupid question. I mean seriously, who gave a flying fuck about foreign languages anyway? Come to think of it, probably almost everyone here. I took a look at the kids around me, and sure enough, they were all either thinking hard or scribbling furiously.
I supposed French would come in handy to some of them; those planning careers as politicians and diplomats, for example, which probably amounted to like 30% of the student body. For someone like me, however, it was both utterly useless and insufferably dull. Chances were I’d be working the drive-thru at Burger King until I died of an early heart attack anyway.
Remember what Fulton always said: Look busy. I dragged my eyes back to the loathsome packet of paper that was my French make-up exam. I doubted I had to worry too much about looking realistically occupied. Ms. Lacroix was terrified of Fulton and me, and it’d be a cold day in hell before she accused either of us of cheating, which was, of course, exactly what we were doing.
It was the last week of March, and normally I’d be ready to slit my wrists from all this school, but for some reason it wasn’t bothering me like it usually did. And by “some reason,” I meant Fulton Reed. We attended class when we felt like it, or when we figured it had been so long we ought to put in a token appearance.
Being on a winning hockey team may not give you a free ride at Eton Hall, but it came pretty close. As long as we passed our classes, no one really cared if we were absent a lot of the time. It was pretty sad really, how easily people’s convictions flew out the window, like Orion’s “no C policy,” which went the way of the dodo when we beat Varsity. Don’t think I was complaining though; I was far from above taking advantage of my team’s new-found glory and success in order to shirk my responsibilities and above all, avoid work or studying of any kind.
This was where Fulton came in. He’d helped me cheat on almost every major test this year. We’d taken French last semester, but due to circumstances beyond our control (read: we were really stoned and wrote down the wrong exam date) we slept through the test and so we were making it up three months later, along with the chess and volleyball teams, who had both been away on a tournament.
I saw Fulton stand up and walk over to Ms. Lacroix’s desk. “Je dois aller a la salle de bain.”
“Bien sur, M. Reed.”
I waited about five minutes after he came back before I asked to go as well. In the third stall, tucked behind the toilet paper dispenser, was the tiny crib sheet Fulton had written for me, small enough to be hidden in the palm of my hand. I read it over a few times to familiarise myself with the answers before going back to class and surreptitiously copying them out. Well, most of them. You see, the majority of cheaters are caught not in the act, but afterwards. I had no desire to get an A in the class, and no one expected it of a dumb jock like me, so I only got about 65%.
I wondered sometimes if I could do okay in school if I tried, but what would be the point? Fulton would always be a million times smarter than me anyway. My mom wouldn’t care, and neither would the school; they just wanted me to keep smashing things, and I was happy to oblige. Let everyone else worry about grades, SAT’s, and college acceptance letters. The truth was that school was dumb; Fulton knew it, I knew it, and so did most of the Ducks. We were just doing our time until graduation, and cheating was a means to the end.
“Hey Portman, pass me some more of that wax, would ya?”
I tossed him the can. He caught it deftly with one hand, stuck a lump of wax on his rag, and went back to buffing the floor with a sigh.
“What’s it been now,” I wondered aloud. “Six weeks in a row?”
“Seven,” he responded with a chuckle. “Man, if the Ducks weren’t kicking such ass, we’d have been expelled ages ago.”
“Yeah, we have got to be setting some kind of record here. What were we in for last week, the lunchroom incident?”
“Nope, that was the week before. Don’t you remember? You said I couldn’t hit that garbage can at the end of the main hall.”
“Oh yeah! I still can’t believe you made that shot, you were like 100 feet out.”
“Too bad the Dean wasn’t as impressed,” he said, laughing at the memory.
“Yeah, what’s his damage? You’d think it was the first time any of the Ducks got caught playing hockey in the hallways before.” I grinned. “I mean, just because the ricochet shattered that gigantic trophy case…”
Friday nights at Eton Hall usually meant one thing for Fulton and me: weekly detention. Small transgressions like being late for class or not doing your homework resulted in a daily detention, an hour of picking up trash around the school with those shoulder bags and grabby-sticks. More serious offences were punishable by a weekly detention, which meant you had to spend all afternoon, and often most of the evening too, doing some task the Dean handed down to you.
Fulton and I got way more daily D.T.’s than anyone else, but it was in the weeklies where we reigned supreme. We were on weekly duty three or four times a month, and though there was often another person with us, there weren’t many who came back. Today, it was just the two of us, and our task was to clean up the gym after today’s assembly. Clearing the chairs and microphones and shit had been easy, but waxing the floor was taking forever. Do you have any idea how many black scuff marks 1500 chairs leave behind? My arms felt like they were going to fall off, but we were nearly done.
“I am going to be so stiff tomorrow,” I complained. “You need to learn to control your temper.”
“WHAT?” he screamed at me, and it took me a moment to realise he was joking.
“Yeah man, telling a guidance councillor to go fuck himself rarely results in a lollipop,” I teased.
“What about you, huh? You didn’t need to actually fall to the ground in a fit of hysterical laughter when I did.”
I chuckled. “I couldn’t help it. We were so stoned, and the look on his face was priceless. He was actually scandalised.” What exactly prompted my typically mild-mannered boyfriend to cuss out the guidance councillor? The story was a bit involved, but the gist of it was that when his mom showed up at the love-in with McNally and the Dean, she was, surprise, surprise, wasted eight ways to Sunday. McNally later called Fulton and me in to talk about it; he figured Fulton would feel less “threatened” with me there. And can you believe it, Fulton turned out to less than willing to discuss the finer points of his mother’s personality with the man and we so landed in here. We stopped making plans to go out on Fridays long ago.
“Don’t you think the fact that the assembly was for us would make us exempt from cleaning up after it?”
“Adults are irrational creatures, Portman. I gave up trying to understand them long ago.”
Wednesday had been the final game in the Minnesota state Midget hockey championship, the winning of which proved to be even easier than last year. Our whole team was on fire, and we shut out Redwood Academy 10-0. Adam, Fulton, Kenny and Guy each scored two goals, Julie was a wall for three periods, and best of all, some serious Bash Brother action went down. There was blood on the ice tonight.
The assembly was called as a celebration for the Ducks being the first hockey team in Eton’s 117-year history to finish the season undefeated. And most of the games weren’t even close, I thought to myself as I dropped my rag for a minute to stretch my aching arms. Fulton sat down behind me and started rubbing my shoulders.
“You know, you were amazing on Wednesday,” I murmured in between the little sighs of ecstasy his touch brought forth from me.
“You were no slouch yourself. Did you catch the Bash Brother fan club up in the stands? You really get them swinging.”
I blushed. The quartet of 16-year old girls had popped up sometime in the mid-season, and for the past few months had been showing up at every game, waving enormous signs that said things like “Bash Brothers’ bitches,” and “Dean Portman rocks my world.” “Hey man, they call for you too.”
Fulton grinned that mischievous little grin of his. “Yeah, but they weren’t calling for my clothes whenever I went to the box. So, should I be jealous? Are all these lovesick girls going to make a heterosexual out of you?”
“Not so long as you keep your figure.”
“You mean you’ll dump me if I get fat and ugly?”
“You’d better believe it.” I turned around, pushed him gently down to the floor and climbed on top of him. I pulled off his t-shirt and threw it across the room, then began giving him little snuffle kisses on his bellybutton until he shrieked with laughter. I loved the feel of the soft white skin of his stomach against my lips. I worked my way up his chest, stopping at his neck and mouth, losing myself in his mass of silky black hair.
“What the hell—”
We both looked up at the sound of several voices. Gathered at the entrance to the gymnasium were Bombay, Orion and all of the Ducks. Those who already knew about us looked at us in sympathy and discomfort, while Orion, Bombay and the others wore identical expressions of shock. No one spoke for an eternity; the tension hung thick and palpable in the air.
“What are you doing?” Orion finally managed.
“Would you believe checking each other for head lice?” Fulton said dryly. “No? Then I guess we were kissing.”
Averman was the next to recover his powers of speech. “See? This is what happens when two teenage boys share a bedroom.”
“Ten percent of the population, my ass,” said Goldberg.
Fulton and I disentangled ourselves from each other’s arms and got to our feet. We straightened our respective bandannas and Fulton went to get his t-shirt while I stood there with my thumb up my ass, staring at everyone as they stared at me..
“So,” Charlie said, breaking the long silence that had fallen over the group once more. He spoke rapidly and nervously, not pausing even to take a breath: “So Coach Bombay came down here to give us some great news he already told all of us about it but we couldn’t find you two anywhere but now we did and we’re really sorry to walk in on you like this and damn this is awkward but it doesn’t have to be—”
“Charlie and I are gay too,” Adam broke in, looking squarely at Bombay and Orion, who both turned to look at him, their eyes wider than one would think physically possible.
“Wh-what?” Orion spluttered.
“He’s kidding, right Charlie?” Bombay asked, turning to Conway, who only shook his head.
“Nope. Ask the other Ducks. They’ve known for awhile now.”
The others nodded. “Yup, we know about THEM alright,” Russ said, shaking his head. “But Fulton and Portman? That’s something new.”
I was really proud of Adam. It had taken guts to do what he did, and he did it to take the heat off Fulton and me. He was probably terrified one of the coaches would tell his dad, but he did it anyway. His courage must have been catching, as well as his altruism, because now Kenny stepped forward.
“Speaking of new, hey, did you know Julie and I have been going out?” He looked back and forth between Orion and Bombay. “Well, why aren’t you shocked?”
Connie stepped up beside him. “As long as we’re getting things out in the open, you should know that I elbowed that guy into the boards on purpose in Wednesday’s game,” she said.
“I’M the one who uses up all the hot water in the showers after games!” Guy yelled, raising his arms into the air.
“I ate a pot brownie! And I liked it!” Julie screamed.
“I’m allergic to dairy products,” Averman said uncertainly.
“I’m afraid of pitbulls!” Goldberg called out.
“My cousin breeds Rottweilers,” Russ put in.
“I’m dating two cheerleaders at once.” Luis, of course.
“I’m double-jointed,” said Dwayne, looking around for approval.
Wow. We all stood there, looking back and forth at each other. Thirteen mighty Ducks. Things were changing, we were growing up, but were still together. They didn’t care about Fulton and me, or at least they were willing to look past it. “This is a hell of a hockey team,” I said.
“You’re right about that,” said Bombay, though he still looked awful bewildered. “Look, maybe we should hold off till another night. I think we have some things we should talk about.”
“Can’t that wait until tomorrow?” Connie said impatiently. She was jumping up and down now, as if she had a wonderful secret she couldn’t wait to share. “You said we were going out to dinner, and Fulton and Portman still don’t know what this is all about.”
She was right. “Yeah, what is this all about?”
“So when the tournament’s founders approached me and asked if I was interested in trying out, you can imagine what I said.”
We were all sitting at a huge table in the Old Spaghetti Factory while Bombay told us everything. We had been chosen to represent the United States once more, this time in the World Junior Hockey Championship, which honoured the best in the sport under the age of eighteen. It was meant to be a showcase of young talent where scouts could come to scope out the best in the world, and maybe sign them on to farm teams or something when they graduated. Next year, however, they had decided to try something different, and give the kids a chance to see other countries.
The deal was that we’d travel around the world for the entire hockey season, playing other countries’ teams and amassing points before the final tournament, which would be held in Vancouver, and be set up just like the NHL playoffs. The winning team would win full university hockey scholarships to the school of their choice.
Obviously, this was an insanely cool piece of news, and it shed some light on why the Ducks took the scene in the gym so well. They were so excited about it that I doubt they’d have cared if Fulton and I said we wanted to adopt a baby.
“But don’t they have to hold a national tournament first?” Julie asked. “I mean, what about the other state champs?”
“When they heard about your record, they decided to come down to the finals to see you in action, and that was enough for them. The head of the league, a guy named Gary Wiseman said, and I quote: “No other junior team in the country can hold a candle to the Ducks.”“
Raucous cheers and hearty expressions of agreement followed Bombay’s words. Winning the Goodwill Games, hell just playing in them, had been one of the best experiences any of us had ever had, and now we were going to get to do it again, and for an entire hockey season? An entire year spent flying from country to country, playing hockey with the best in the world? Sleeping in hotels, never going to school, just hanging with the Ducks? It sure put the whole gay/straight drama thing in perspective, didn’t it?
“I can’t believe it,” Fulton said as we snuggled together in my bed, our stomachs so full of pasta we could barely move. “Did you see the way they all stepped up like that, even Luis? They were really great, weren’t they?”
“Yeah, it was like in the Goodwill Games. And now we get to do it again. I feel like, what did we do to deserve this? I mean, that chick that won $20 million dollars last week? She don’t got nothing on us.”
Fulton sighed in perfect agreement. “Totally.”
It was one of those amazingly overwhelming moments when you realised that everything was perfect, that all was right in our world. Or at least that’s what I thought to myself on that Friday night as I lay in my bed, relishing the comforting weight of Fulton’s head on my chest while Kurt Cobain sang us to sleep.
Notes: *Holy shit, can you believe this crazy hockey action? THE MIGHTY DUCKS HAVE BEATEN DETROIT THREE GAMES IN A ROW! One more win and the reigning champs are eliminated in the first round! It’s a miracle! Of course, one mustn’t forget last year, when my beloved Canucks beat them the first two games, only to lose the subsequent four. So everybody cross your fingers for the Ducks to shut out those geriatric Wings! My Canucks, on the other hand, are far from out of the running, but they need the big line to get back into it, and they could really use a win next game. Has anyone noticed that Ethan Moreau, who plays for the Oilers, is #18? Is that a crazy coincidence or what? Crazy.*
In a world gone gay
He led me directly to the living room, and gestured for me to have a seat on the black leather couch that sat against the left wall, while he went straight for the wet bar that lined the right. “Can I get you a drink?”
I looked at my watch. It was just past ten in the morning. I sighed. Too early to have a headache like this. “What the hell. Bourbon on the rocks, straight up. Better make it a double.”
“You got it,” Orion said, pouring a gin and tonic for himself—rather heavy on the gin, I noticed—before coming over and taking a seat beside me.
“Where’re Jen and Em?”
“Jenny’s taken Emily to go see her grandmother in St. Paul, they should be gone most of the day.”
“Good. Then no one will mind if I do this.” I tilted my head back and downed my drink in one go.
Orion laughed. “No, no one will mind. I feel like doing the same thing myself, as a matter of fact.” After knocking back his own drink, Ted stood up to get us seconds, and I felt a sudden pang of anger against the man. I mean, I leave the Ducks with him for a couple of years, and look what happens!
Alright Gordon, stay calm. This wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was hard to stay calm, however, when it felt like there was a leprechaun doing a gymnastics routine in the pit of my stomach. How could Charlie be gay? How could he not have told me? And most of all, how could I not have seen this coming?
“Ted, what the hell have you done to my Ducks?” Okay, that wasn’t quite the approach I was going for. Orion just smiled crookedly and shook his head.
“I wish I knew.”
“You mean you had no idea? About any of them?”
“None whatsoever. You think I’d have kept my mouth shut about something like this?”
I threw up my hands in exasperation. “How is that possible? Don’t you talk to them at all? Christ Ted, I trusted you with those guys!”
“Hey, hey,” he said defensively. “It’s not like I was the only one in the dark. A lot of the Ducks didn’t know about Fulton and Portman. I wonder how they found out about Banks and Conway?”
“Because they told them. Adam and Charlie came out to the Ducks months ago. I guess the Bashes never got around to doing the same.”
The only reason I even knew this much was because I’d cornered Averman in the bathroom last night and pumped him dry for any information. I knew I should talk to Charlie, but I didn’t know what to say. I felt as if I had let him down. If I had been there for him, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.
I just couldn’t get my head around it. How could Charlie, the same Charlie I’d known and loved for years, be a… a fudgepacker? And not just him, but three other players as well? I mean, wasn’t there a limit for this kind of thing? Didn’t hockey teams have, like, a homosexual carrying capacity?
I took another long drink. My headache wasn’t going anywhere. Maybe they weren’t really gay. After all, they’re kids; maybe they’re just experimenting. Yeah, and maybe I was a Chinese jet pilot.
“This is just so unexpected,” Orion sighed, finishing his second drink and rubbing his eyes tiredly. “I mean, they all seemed so normal. Fulton and Portman have got to be the most masculine kids I’ve ever come across, Charlie’s always been so well adjusted, and Adam… okay, maybe I can see it with Adam. Gordon, what are we going to do?”
“I don’t know, but this can’t get out, not now.”
“Tell me about it. The world sure picked a hell of a time to turn gay.”
Ever since the Peewee championships, the Ducks had been drawing considerable media attention, and the Goodwill Games had magnified that tenfold. Now, with two state championships under their belts and the World Juniors coming up, I had been fielding a lot of offers from schools that wanted to recruit them. Orion had been swamped with scouts and managers who were interested in the kids, and four names always came up before any of the others: Adam, Julie, Fulton and Portman.
Hockey was not exactly what you would call a progressive sport, and if this whole gay thing got out, I was afraid it could seriously jeopardize their chances at a career in professional hockey. What a mess. I gulped down the rest of my drink with a grimace.
“Maybe we can get them into counselling or something. Or better yet, one of those special programs. Three or four years ago, a couple Eton girls got caught getting a little too friendly, and they sent them to some sort of camp, and when they came back, they weren’t gay anymore.”
“I don’t think it works like that, Ted.”
“Well, we should at least tell their parents, so they can try to fix them before it’s too late. They’re good kids.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Fix them, Ted?”
He shrugged. “Fine, guide them or whatever. You don’t actually think they’re serious about this, do you? I mean, come on, four guys on one team?”
“Maybe they’re not, I don’t know, but I think we should talk to them first before we go making phone calls. They might not be ready to tell their folks.”
“But we have a responsibility to tell the parents when their kid is in trouble.”
“I’m not sure being gay and being in trouble are the same thing,” I said massaging my temples. I really needed another drink. “Besides, our primary responsibility is to those kids, and telling their parents might not be the best thing for them right now. Charlie’s mom would probably be okay, but I don’t know his stepdad. I doubt Adam’s father would be too thrilled. And the Bashes? To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve even seen their parents, let alone spoken to them. Have you?”
Orion shook his head. “Nope, but they’ve had to come in once or twice to talk to the Dean.” He filled me in a bit on the game against Windsor; Portman’s injury, Fulton’s retaliation, and the events that had followed. It sure sounded like my Bash Brothers, alright. “It’s those two that I’m having the hardest time with. I just can’t imagine them as a couple of fairies. I guess they’re sort of like those steel worker, prison inmate queers.”
I shook my head. I didn’t feel the same way as Orion. The two had always been so close, and Portman’s tough-guy act could have been overcompensation, if you wanted to think like that. And Fulton? I gave up on being surprised by him ages ago. “Whose bright idea was it to let them room together anyway?” I said sullenly, while Orion got up to refill our drinks. This time, he just brought the bottles over to the table. Good. I was going to need some help to get through the day.
“It wasn’t anyone’s idea. We tried splitting them up, but no one else could stand to live with them, so eventually we just gave up. Besides, they told me you let them room together during the Goodwill Games.”
I sighed. “Oh. Right. I forgot.” As a coach, I had always prided myself on knowing my team inside and out; I really think it was one of the reasons the team worked as well as it did. However, there was an exception to this rule, and his name was Fulton Reed.
He was one of the original Ducks, and so while you’d think I’d know him better than many of the other players, he had always remained a bit of a mystery to me. It was hard to believe it had been five years since he broke my window with that shot of his. I remembered how he had tried to run away from me, how he had called me a moron when I pressed him about playing hockey. I remembered all the fights he got into, and all the times I had to break them up on the ice. I remembered how he had tried to take on an entire hockey team when one of the players cross-checked Tammy Duncan from behind. And yet I also remembered Fulton standing against the locker room wall, leaning on his hockey stick, looking far bigger and stronger than an 11-year old boy had any right to be. “I’ll be a Duck,” he’d said, when nobody else would.
I just never understood where he was coming from, his motivations. He was a strange kid, so many contradictions, and the fact that he kept his mouth shut all the time didn’t help matters. How could I have known him for so long, and yet never met his family, or even known that he had one, for that matter?
He had walked to and from every game, and he had been the only kid on the team who didn’t have someone rushing to congratulate him after we won the PeeWee finals. I remembered I would ask him if he wanted a ride, but he always said no, that he liked walking. One day Charlie and I rounded up the Ducks for an extra practice, everybody but Fulton. It turned out nobody knew his phone number, or where he lived.
“Check the alleys,” Charlie had said. I had, and there I’d found him, shooting pucks into the same trunk he’d been using the day I met him, with a speed that seemed to defy all laws of motion. When we were driving back to the rink, I’d asked him where he lived, and he just shrugged and said: “Around.”
All this remembering got me thinking about how much Fulton had changed since Portman joined the team. Fulton the Bash Brother was not the same Fulton I used to know, this sad, gigantic, fiercely loyal kid who never spoke. If Portman was the reason for this evolution, how could I wish heterosexuality upon him, if it would bring him back to where he used to be? I couldn’t.
I stood up. “Let’s go.”
“Go? Go where?”
“To Eton. It’s pointless to sit around here with our thumbs up our asses. We need to talk to Charlie and the others, get this whole thing cleared up.”
Portman groaned and Luis rolled his eyes. “That was bad, Averman. Really bad.”
“What?” Averman cried indignantly. “That was a classic! You yahoos wouldn’t know a good joke if it hit you in the face!”
“Hey, it’s not our fault we have good taste.”
“Good taste, yes, definitely good taste,” Averman mumbled, rubbing his hands together and staring at the ground in his best Rainman impersonation.
“Shut up, Averman,” Portman said, giving him a friendly shove that sent him flying into the lockers. “I’ve got a joke for you. You know how Mickey and Minnie are supposed to be married, right? Well, they want a divorce…”
I smiled. I’d heard this one before. Luis, Averman, Portman and I were walking back to the dorms after finishing a chem lab we’d had to make up. You’d think Ms. Tremblay wouldn’t have made us come in on a Saturday, seeing how we’d missed the class because we were busy kicking ass in the State finals, but what can I say? The woman’s a real bitch. I think she slept with Hitler or something; she’s certainly old enough.
“So the judge says: ‘Why do you want to divorce her, is she crazy?’ Mickey says: ‘No, she’s fucking goofy!’”
“Okay, good one,” said Averman, still chuckling. “Here’s one you should appreciate, Portman. A gay couple gay walks into a bar—”
“You know Averman, it’s attitudes like yours that have been keeping the gay community underground all these years,” Luis broke in somberly.
“Oh, come on, it’s just a joke.”
“Wrong. There’s no such thing as just a joke. It’s bigotry, plain and simple.”
After walking in on Portman and I in the gym, Luis decided that there must be more to gay people than he had previously imagined, and so he started to read up on homosexuality. I don’t know sort of shit he read, but now he had become some sort of advocate for gay rights. He was always talking about inequality, and how gay marriages should be legalised, and stuff. He kept encouraging Portman and I not be ashamed of our relationship, to hold hands, or kiss, to “be free,” as he put it. It was pretty funny most of the time, but after a while, it could start to wear on your nerves.
Suddenly, from somewhere behind us, came a voice I didn’t recognize. The tone, however, was far more familiar: “There goes the gay pride parade.”
We turned around to see a group of four girls and two guys. The girls were all decked out in cheerleading regalia, while the guys were both on the football team. It was one of the girls that had spoken, and the guys didn’t seem too thrilled about it; they kept looking nervously back and forth between Portman and I.
Luis turned and walked right up to one of the cheerleaders. “Carley, what’s going on?”
“Luis, how can you be hanging out with them? Haven’t you heard? They’re queers!”
I guess this was one of Luis’ cheerleaders. He sure knew how to pick them. “No, Carley, you don’t understand. I used to be the same as you. I hated and feared the entire gay community, but I was wrong. There’s nothing sick or deviant about homosexuality; it’s been around for hundreds of years. Some species of monkeys have even been known to—”
“Aaah! I don’t want to hear this!” the girl screamed, putting her hands over her ears and running back down the hall.
The others followed her, and just when they reached the corner, the football jocks turned around. “Your little hotshot fairy friends had better watch it. They’re not as big as you two, they might get hurt.” And with that, they disappeared down the hall.
Averman, who had been huddled behind me the entire time, emerged. “Well, this is just great. Now the entire school will be after us. Are you two going to protect us all?”
Portman and I looked at each other anxiously. We had to find Charlie and Adam before anyone else did. We took off down the hall at a run.
“Why couldn’t you guys have come out as something less controversial?” Averman panted as he tried to keep up. “Like mormons or vegetarians or something?”
Charlie smiled. “Thanks Coach.”
Suddenly, the door opened with such force that it slammed into the opposite wall with a bang. Portman, Fulton, Luis and Averman stood in the doorway.
“We have a problem,” said Portman. “They know.”
I looked from Charlie to Adam and back to Portman in confusion. “How bad is it?” Adam asked softly.
“Well, it sure ain’t good. I don’t know what’ll happen on Monday, but it’ll be all over the school before then. You and Charlie better stick tight to Fult and me for a while, okay?”
Charlie nodded. “I guess Beck told everyone, huh?”
Fulton shook his head. “I don’t think so. Someone must have told, but it was someone who knew about Portman and me as well.”
By now, I had pieced together what everyone was talking about. “Don’t you think you guys are overreacting a bit? It can’t be that big of a deal.”
Charlie smiled sadly. “Come on, Coach, I know you’re not that naïve.”
“No, but I think I am,” said Orion, who was looking vaguely nauseous. “I told the Varsity coach about you guys, you know to ask for advice on what to do. He promised not to tell anyone. Do you really think he told the entire Varsity team?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Adam said quietly. “Telling one guy would be enough.”
“Oh man,” Averman groaned. “This is not good.”
“And to think I once numbered among those homophobes,” Luis muttered angrily. “Come on Les, we’d better go warm the others.”
“Yeah, warn them to stay in bed till school lets out,” Averman muttered, then they both turned to go.
Adam sighed heavily. “I guess we should forget about the dance next week, huh Charlie?”
“What?” Portman cried. “Charlie, there is no way you two are not going to the dance just because a couple faggots have some self-esteem issues.”
“Portman, I’ve told you before, when you’re gay, you can’t use the word ‘faggot’ against straight people. It creates too much confusion,” Fulton said, patting his friend on the arm. “He’s right though. You two have been looking forward to this thing for months—God knows why—there’s no way you’re missing out.”
“But Fulton, the whole school will be there.”
“I know, and maybe that’s a good thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know for sure, but don’t worry. We’ll think of something.”
Orion and I looked at each other. There wasn’t much we could do here; we knew telling the Dean would only make things worse. I had no idea what Fulton was talking about, but something in his voice made me think that he already had a plan in mind. It turned out that he did, and it was bigger, braver and crazier than anything I could have imagined.
Notes: *Aaah! Finally! Insanely large school project kept me out of circulation for almost a month! I know it’s not that big a deal to you guys, but I’m anally punctual, and it drove me nuts going that long without updating. Now that all this school shit is over, I’ll have more time, thank god. The final chapter in this story should be up within the week, so check back soon. I’m going to give OmniDuck another go, I think it’ll work well for what I have in mind. Writing must be some sort of imagination purge for me, because going for more than three weeks without it put my imagination into overdrive, and now I’m stuffed to the brim with ideas that want to get out of my head and onto paper NOW. I’ll share my future story plans with you at the end of the next chapter, as well. By the way, Cake Eater, I too love Holes, both the book and the movie, and I am with you: Zigzag is on fire! Yum!*
The best and bloodiest Spring Formal ever
The Spring Formal was Eton’s final dance before summer vacation came with its $50, 000 European cruises, all-inclusive Mexican resorts, and trips to Grandma’s vineyard in Florence—for the majority of the school’s illustrious (read: affluent) student body, in any case. It was a mandatory, school-wide event, and the theme for this year was Under the Sea; not surprisingly, the gym had been decorated accordingly. It was a tradition going back to 1877, when the school was founded, and to say that the events which transpired at this particular Spring Formal would be mulled over, talked about, and most of all laughed at—for the remainder of Eton Hall’s history, would be putting it mildly. Was it any wonder the Bash Brothers were behind it all?
“Goddamned things are too small,” Fulton muttered as he tugged at his waist. “Look! The crotch is barely past my knees!”
“I’m sorry Fulton, but those were the biggest size I could find,” Connie said. She looked at him appraisingly, then shook her head. “No, you’re right, that won’t do at all. Are you sure you can’t get them up any further?”
To illustrate the impossibility of this, Fulton did a funny little hopping dance as he yanked at the black and white striped tights that refused to stretch any further up his legs. Understandably, this sent Connie, as well as Portman, who was stretched out on one of the beds, into fits of laughter. When the snorts, chuckles, and finger-pointing ‘ha-ha’s’ began to subside, Portman leapt up from the bed.
“I’ve got an idea!”
A few minutes later, the tricky tights had been tamed, thanks to Portman’s ingenuity; he cut the toes out and stuck Fulton’s feet through the holes, using hockey tape to secure the tights to his ankles.
“Perfect, thanks Portman,” Connie said, then turned to eye Fulton disapprovingly. “Fulton, please tell me you won’t be fiddling with your tights all night; it looks like you’re pulling at your underwear.” Connie, as head of wardrobe (Julie was in charge of hair and makeup), was as involved in this escapade as anyone, and she didn’t want her creation to go out looking like some sort of goon.
“Why do they have to be so fucking tight?” he muttered. “It feels like they’re cutting off the bloodflow to my midsection.”
“That’s because they’re uh… control top,” Connie coughed the last words into her hand. She knew that the kind thing to do would have been to keep quiet, especially with Portman in the room, but she also knew that the funny thing would be to tell him, and just sit back and watch the fireworks. She wasn’t disappointed.
“What?” Fulton spluttered, glaring hard at Connie as Portman rolled around on the bed, holding his stomach and squealing with laughter.”
“Look,” she said defensively, trying to keep from smiling. “You’re just too damn big to be a girl, and it’s taken some serious effort on my part to come up with an outfit that doesn’t make you look like a hippo in a tutu. Trust me, control top is the way to go.”
“He eats butter, you know,” Portman said sagely.
“I do not!”
“Oh, what do you know about it, Fatty McButterpants?”
“Eat me,” Fulton growled.
“No way, I’m trying to watch my fat intake. Fatty.” Portman got off the bed in order to better harass his boyfriend by tickling and poking him in the stomach in between taunts.
“Enough!” Connie cried. “We’ve got too much to do. Adam! Get in here!”
Moments later Adam, who had been across the hall in Ken and Luis’ room, poked his head through the door. “What’s up?”
“Adam, Julie and Kenny are late getting back from the drugstore. I need you to start blow-drying Fulton’s hair while I get his dress ready.”
Adam coughed and looked at the ground. “Uh, what makes you think I know how to—”
Connie laughed and rolled her eyes. “Please, Guy told me all about your Ingrid Bergman routine.”
Now it was Adam’s turn to splutter, but Connie was already out the door.
“Hey dude,” Portman said with a wink. “If it makes you feel any better, Fult n’me already knew about it, too.”
“Yeah,” Fulton grinned. “And if that doesn’t work, at least you’ll always have Paris.”
“I’m going to kill him,” Adam muttered as he sat Fulton down at the desk and started the blowdryer.
The past two weeks had been hard for all the Ducks, but no one got it worse than Adam; though he was under the near constant protection of Fulton and Portman (who, in their defence, had probably saved him from hospitalisation) something about him just seemed to incite bullies and hate-mongers. And so it was Adam’s locker upon which “Fagot” (yes, that’s right, faggot with one ‘g’) had been scrawled in pink spray paint, his feet that always managed to get tangled in someone else’s whenever he crossed the cafeteria, his delicate, determined features that made him the target of almost every kid in the school.
Though none of his teammates had said anything to him (except Charlie, of course), they were all really impressed with the way Adam had handled the torrent of insults and abuse that had been heaped upon him since news of his sexuality hit Eton’s high voltage gossip wire. He ignored everything and everyone so completely, and with so little apparent effort that one might assume he had been doing it his entire life. He never broke down crying, or flipped out on some kid, or played sick to avoid going to class. He never acknowledged his tormentors, never looked at them when they spoke to him. He never said a word when someone dumped potato salad in his backpack, or when his books disappeared during study hall, replaced with a lurid cartoon, the details of which need not be divulged here.
He had been careful to shield as many of these incidents as he could from the Bash Brothers; they had worked so hard to keep him safe, and it would only make them feel badly. And so he said nothing, focussing instead on getting heat to the bottom layers of Fulton’s thick black hair and hoping like hell that things didn’t get out of hand at the dance.
Fulton’s decision to attend the Eton Hall spring formal dressed as a girl did not come to him lightly, nor was it born from an exhibitionistic form of gay pride. Rather it was born from the knowledge that it was the only option, short of running away, going to the police, or giving up completely. As soon as the idea came to him, Fulton knew it was something he had to do, and when he explained it to the Ducks, they knew it too.
“As you all know, they will not be returning next year, as they have been given a tremendous opportunity by the Junior Hockey Commission. It is one they richly deserve, and I think everyone will agree with me that they are among the most colourful, passionate students we have ever had the pleasure of having here at Eton Hall. And so, without further ado, I am proud to present the Ducks with the annual Franklin Petrovsky award for outstanding athletic achievement. Will you all join me in congratulating them on their record-breaking season, and to wish them all the best in their future endeavours.”
Here we go, thought Charlie nervously as he walked up on stage. He shook Dean Buckley’s hand, accepted his plaque and smiled for the cameras, all the while glancing over his shoulder as the rest of the team filed up on stage behind him. Julie, Kenny, Goldberg, Dwayne… it wouldn’t be long now.
The Spring Formal, like all events at Eton, began with a speech from the Dean, as well as any special announcements or presentations to be made, before the dance begun. Charlie spotted Bombay and Orion seated in the front row, smiling at him. He grinned back feebly. Relax Charlie, he told himself. Just remember, you’re not coming back next year. Classes are over; there isn’t anything they can do that they haven’t done already. Yeah, right.
His thoughts were interrupted when a hushed silence fell over the crowd before the room suddenly exploded in whispers, and Charlie knew at once who had stepped up on stage.
Fulton had stopped in front of Dean Buckley, who didn’t give him his plaque. “Son, this isn’t funny,” he whispered urgently, casting nervous glances at the attendees, many of whom were on their feet, staring and pointing like awe-struck children. “What on Earth are you trying to do?”
“He’s not doing anything, he’s here to get an award, so just give him his plaque.” Russ said, stepping in front of the Dean and crossing his arms.
The Dean thrust the plaque into Fulton’s hands. “Fine, here, just get off the stage,” he whispered imploringly.
And so he did, quietly leaving the stage and going over to join the rest of the Ducks, who had gathered against the bleachers. As he walked toward them, Portman barely recognised his boyfriend. Fulton was wearing a metallic blue dress with bell sleeves and a skirt that ended just above the knee. His hair had been streaked with a deep blue dye and done up in pigtails tied with ribbons of a matching shade. The black and white striped tights hid his hairy legs, and somehow lent him an elfish air. On his back was a pair of angel wings made of white feathers and on his feet was the same pair of dirty, holey Converse hightops he’d had for years—not many women’s shoes were available in size twelve. His eyes were lined in blue, and his body was covered with a layer of glitter than made his cheeks sparkle under the bright fluorescent lights of the gymnasium. An incongruous assemblage, perhaps, but also striking and somehow otherworldly.
Just looking at him took Portman’s breath away. He put his hand in Fulton’s and gazed at him lovingly. “You’re beautiful.”
Perhaps you are asking yourselves: why? Why did he do it? What good could it possibly accomplish? There are many answers to this question, and if you weren’t able to come up with a single one, then there’s not much that can be done for you. In doing what he did, Fulton drew all the attention away from Adam and Charlie, leaving them free to dance together as they pleased. Without him, they would not have even been able to attend the formal, they would have been so mercilessly harassed.
There is something to be said for shock value: if sufficiently extreme, it can shut people up better than anything, and that was exactly what had been done tonight; there hadn’t been a single catcall or insult. This was also probably partially due to all the teachers present. Though they were wandering around with slightly dazed expressions, they kept a close watch on everybody. The Ducks sat together at their isolated corner tables, talking amongst themselves, and whenever any of them were on the dance floor, the other students gave them a wide berth. It was rather funny, seeing the kids shuffle about to stay outside the eight-foot radius that magically surrounded each of the Ducks, as if they were victims of leprosy, or syphilis, or perhaps the bubonic plague.
Everyone talked in low, hushed tones; the gym was perpetually buzzing from the sum of hundreds of whispered voices. A thundercloud of emotions seemed to hover above the heads of the Eton Hall students and staff. All of its contents, tension, shock, outrage, disgust, irony and many others were so heavy in the air that they could almost be smelt. Upon entrance to the gymnasium, the effects were so overwhelming that one had the impression of walking in on a hostage situation, or on two opposing armies on the verge of battle, both lying in wait for the other to make the first move. That this move would come was not in question; it was only a matter of time before something set off a spark.
As for the Ducks, they had been expecting all this and more, and so they were the only ones at the dance who were even halfway enjoying themselves. Adam and Charlie had been dancing all night, Julie and Ken were making out at one of the tables, and though it was getting rather steamy (there was some cake icing involved), the chaperones made no move to stop them. Connie and Guy had disappeared fifteen minutes ago, and the rest of the Ducks were laying bets on where they had run off to (the smart money was on behind the bleachers). It appeared as if an individual wearing clothes meant for a member of the opposite sex to a school dance was enough to throw all rules out the window, and replace them with anarchy, of which the Ducks were happy to exploit. They were chatting away, excited musings about their upcoming hockey season and snide remarks about the other students being occasionally interspersed with Averman getting down on his knees and asking Fulton for a dance, even though he knew that it would only result in Russ kicking him in the shins again.
Adam and Charlie left the dance floor and came over to join the others. “How’s it going, guys?” Charlie asked as he plopped down in a chair and wiped his sleeve across his forehead. They’d been dancing for more than two hours straight, and Charlie was exhausted, but to his consternation Adam still looked like he could go another few dozen rounds. He tried to control his heavy breathing, and was glad he’d just made the switch to a stronger antiperspirant.
“Oh, just fine,” Averman said, and the others rolled their eyes. They knew what was coming. “That is,” he continued, “if you consider fine to include being utterly shunned by our entire peer group, probably setting the stage for ostracisation that will follow us for the rest of our miserable lives.”
“Oh, come on now Averman, be fair,” said Portman, wagging his finger at his friend. “You were shunned and ostracised long before half the team fell prey to deviant lifestyles.”
Averman continued as if Portman hadn’t spoken. “I mean, you don’t find it just a little ironic that Adam and Charlie can dance the night away, while the rest of us are getting hip-checked by the entire football team if we even try to approach a girl?”
Fulton smiled to himself as Portman shot out another retort, and the banter continued. It was all very good-natured, however; everyone was used to Averman’s complaints, and nobody took them seriously, including Averman himself. In the days since Orion spilled the beans, the friendships and bonds that existed between each of the Ducks were beginning to show themselves more strongly than ever; none of the straight Ducks blamed any of the gay ones for what was going on, choosing instead to support and stand up for them. All previous traces of unease were gone from the team as well. This was evident to Fulton in Averman’s complaints and Goldberg’s jokes, and in the way Russ never even seemed to think about it at all. Luis’ new-found political-correctness and Dwayne’s gentle curiosity (he bragged on the phone to his parents that he knew no less than four homosexuals, and they were so thrilled by this, and eager to meet them, that Dwayne finally had to ask Portman to talk to them so they’d leave him alone) were also indicators.
As the other Ducks continued their chatter, Fulton watched the rest of the school. He could see the tension building up just beneath the surface, like thousands of gallons of magma flowing under a thin layer of volcanic ash; any seismic movements and the whole thing would blow. What would happen when it did was anyone’s guess, but Fulton had a pretty good one. He knew that the best way to ensure the safety and comfort of his friends was to trigger the explosion on purpose, and, in that way, he hoped to retain a measure of control over the outcome.
He leaned over to Portman and Charlie, who were sitting beside him. “It’s going to go any minute. We have to do something.”
“What do you mean?” Charlie asked, but Portman was already nodding.
“Look around you, spazway. No one’s smiling, no one’s dancing, they’re all just staring at us. The Dean is grinding his teeth so hard I can hear it from here, and that history teacher’s pulling out handfuls of her own hair.” He gestured to a short Spanish woman with a mass of thick brown hair. She kept running her fingers through it nervously, and sure enough, you could see the hairs clinging to her fingers, as well as a small pile that was gathering around her feet. “These people are all set to blow.”
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, after all,” Charlie said. “No offence Fulton, because Adam and I have had such a great time tonight, and no way we could have come without you, but—”
“Yeah,” Adam, who had been listening, broke in. “We really owe you, Fult. I just can’t believe you had the guts to do something like this.”
Fulton shrugged. “I don’t give a shit what these losers think of me, I just hope I don’t have to sit through the same little chat Bombay had with you and Charlie. I’d just die.”
Charlie grinned. “You know, I thought it was going to be torture, but it wasn’t so bad. He didn’t get too angry, or emotional, or try to bring up safe sex or AIDS talk. Besides, I think he was a little drunk.”
“Speaking of which,” said Russ jerking his head towards the cluster of teachers who were gathered by the entrance. “You guys notice how two or three of them keep ducking out, then coming back? I know they’ve got a minibar tucked away someplace. Check out Mr. Benson.”
Mr. Benson, aka the bane of Fulton Reed’s high school existence, was standing near the other teachers, but slightly off to the side. His face was bright red and he was swaying on his feet, his eyes closed, his lips moving wordlessly.
Just then, the microphone on the stage let out an ear-splitting feedback wail that quickly turned everyone’s attention toward the front. Dean Buckley stood before them, hunched over the microphone and looking as if he’d rather be anywhere but where he was.
“It is time for the final dance of the evening, so if everybody would partner up and get out onto the floor…” No one made a move to do so, and the Dean sighed resignedly. “Once the dance is over, if you would kindly return to your dorms for the night, we will not tolerate any shenanigans.” With that, he turned the microphone over to the band’s lead singer.
The band was comprised of a quartet of bespectacled, sport-coat wearing, geek-chic Weezer wannabees, but they were had a pretty good repertoire of cover songs. “All right, last number of the night, so we wanna see everyone on the floor! Come on you guys! Any requests?” the lead singer called out. Once again, minimal response all around except in the corner the Ducks were seated in, where there was a flurry of activity.
Julie and Kenny had finally come up for air and were back with the others, while Charlie scurried off to round up Connie and Guy and Portman approached the stage to talk to the band. When everyone was present, they huddled up in a circle just as the first chords began to chime out.
“Alright guys, who are we?” Charlie asked.
“And what do Ducks do?”
They all put their hands in the middle of the circle and began to quack. “Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack!”
As soon as they were done, Charlie grabbed Adam by the wrist and pulled him out onto the floor. They were quickly joined by Fulton and Portman, who made a exception to their iron-clad “no dancing” rule for this special occasion. The song Portman had requested was the End by the Doors, and as the keyboard’s jangled discordant melodies echoed across the empty floor, Julie, Kenny, Connie and Guy broke from the circle, and began to dance. Only it was Julie, not Guy, who held Connie in her arms. Dwayne and Russ were the next ones out, Russ giving Dwayne one of his famous shin-kicks when Dwayne stepped on his toes.
“This is some mighty fucked-up shit,” Averman said to Goldberg, observing the scene before him.
“Shut up and dance,” said Goldberg, hauling him out onto the floor.
And so the Ducks danced. They danced as if they didn’t feel the stares, or hear the whispers, or understand the consequences of what they were doing. They danced as if tomorrow would never come.
What happened next came as a surprise to everyone, even Fulton. A couple of freshman girls got up and started to dance as well, one of them laying her head on the other’s shoulder as they rocked slowly back and forth. A minute or so later, they were joined by a two senior guys that the Ducks recognised as Lucas Gardener and Bradley Walsh, the captain and co-captain of the Varsity wrestling team. After that, three more female couples and a pair of chess club boys joined them. An increasingly angry buzz began to circulate through the crowds of students and teachers, but no one on the dance floor seemed to notice. Same-sex couples kept trickling onto the floor, though obviously not all of them were not romantically involved. The scene was extremely heartening to Gordon Bombay and Ted Orion, who were watching everything from the safety of the punch bowl. Bombay had to admit that it was the last thing he expected, to see so many students accepting or supporting his team. Maybe he’d been wrong. Maybe the world was ready to deal with gay hockey players.
“It’s so fucking beautiful,” Orion sniffed, his eyes red and watery from a few too many trips to the minibar.
“You’re right, let’s get out there.” So Bombay and Orion joined the others, though as they danced they kept a respectable distance from each other, as Orion feared for his “tenure.”
“This is the end, beautiful friend. This is the end, my only friend, the end. It hurts to set you free, but you’ll never follow me. The end of laughter and soft lies, the end of nights we tried to die. This is the end…”
Whether it was the sight of two male teachers dancing together, or all the spiked punch the kids had been drinking, or the knowledge that the dance was over and all those freaks were just going to get away with what they did if nothing happened, but something snapped, and it was just as the song was ending, that all hell broke loose.
Nobody saw who threw the first punch. One moment everyone was dancing, and the next half of them had been knocked to the floor by enraged partygoers. In the span of less than 30 seconds, a rumble had erupted, with over 100 Eton students hitting, kicking, scratching and biting each other as hard as they could. And how were our noble Ducks doing, you ask?
Russ and Guy were kicking ass, of course, and Julie was more than holding her own with a particularly vicious member of the swim team. Dwayne and Luis had tried to make peace with their attackers at first, but after getting smashed in the face a few times, they decided that violence sometimes WAS the answer, and were now right in the middle of it like everyone else. Connie leapt on the back of the Varsity goalie (who had replaced Scooter when he graduated) and started to choke him, while Ken used this distraction to dart in and kick him in the balls as hard as he could. Charlie was duking it out with a boy of similar size, and though Adam did alright for himself, the Bashes had to step in occasionally to relieve him of his aggressors. Fulton and Portman? Suffice to say that together they did the work of many; kids were flying left and right as they hurled bigot after bigot into the ionosphere.
Bombay and Orion were the only adults trying to separate the warring throngs of children, and they were nowhere near enough. Just as Bombay had managed to strong-arm one girl off of another, he was hit hard in the ear by an errant blow from none other than Dean Portman, knocking him to the ground and loosening his grip on the girl, who wriggled out of his grasp and leapt back into the fray.
“This is insane!” cried Orion, as he helped Guy, who had been floored by the boy he was fighting, to his feet. “You have to stop!”
Guy shook his head. “Don’t you get it? This had to happen, this or something like it. Everyone here is so repressed, this is probably the only time most of them have had to just let their emotions go. Now if you’ll excuse me…”
He tried to return to the battle, but Orion held tight to his shirt. “No way Guy, I’m not going to let you…”
“Hey, Ted!” Orion turned at the sound of his name, only to greet the flying fist of Bernard Benson, history teacher and full-time asshole, with his face. “Take that, you arrogant bastard!” he shouted gleefully.
“Jesus Christ!” cried Bombay, as Guy leapt back into action and Orion grabbed Benson by the hair and began slamming his head repeatedly into the gym floor. “What do you think you’re doing, Ted?”
“What about your role in all of this, Gordon?” It was John McNally, the school’s guidance councillor, who was always at work trying to get the Ducks’ scholarships revoked, claiming that the team was composed mainly of “delinquents and sociopaths.”
“If it weren’t for your providing such a bad example for these kids, we wouldn’t be in this situation. You ought to be thrown in prison for corrupting young minds like you have. I plan to pursue this legally, believe me. You are to blame here, Gordon, and I am going to be sure everyone knows it.”
Gordon looked at McNally, then over his shoulder at the battle that was still going strong, then back to McNally. “Fuck it,” he muttered, and coldcocked the cheeky bastard with a vicious roundhouse.
So what happened after it was all over? How did it end? Why, happily, of course, what did you expect? The Ducks and their allies came out on top, just as everyone knew they would, though they acquired their fair share of injuries in the process, and the school nurse had to call in for an aid to help with all the stitching and bandaging. Scores of students and over a dozen teachers had taken part in the largest fracas in the history of the school, but were the police called? Of course not! The Dean and his board of alumni swept it all under the table, once security camera tapes made it clear that it was their sprightly offspring who had attacked the Ducks, and not the other way around.
The rest of the school year passed without further incident and though teachers frowned and students whispered, Adam and Charlie were free to walk hand in hand down the hall without fear of attack. Fulton and Portman were free to do the same if they wished, but holding hands had never been their thing.
As a rather interesting aside, the two girls who were the first non-Ducks to join the dance at the end of the night officially came out as well. Their names were Lynn Mykerson and Dakota White. They were both very involved in Eton’s art program; Dakota took photographs, and Lynn did mixed media. In the years to come, they fought Eton’s strident rules and policies with letter campaigns, petitions and protests, and while it only resulted in being expelled their senior year, they were both accepted to the prestigious Emily Carr art school on Granville Island in B.C. When Dakota published her first book of photographs to great praise at the age of19, she dedicated it as follows:
To Fulton Reed and the rest of the mighty Ducks: for paving the way.
It was shortly after three in the morning, and Fulton and Portman were snuggled on the couch in the attic. Portman had eight stitches above his eyebrow and three in his lip, while Fulton had five along his hairline, and another six on his hand, where he’d busted his knuckles open on some kid’s head. The school had assigned them separate rooms when they found out they were together, so they’d spent most nights since then up here.
Portman reached out his hand for the pipe proffered by Fulton, as he watched the sweet-smelling smoke billow and furl above his head. How had it happened? How could everything go so wrong, and yet turn out so right? “You knew what would happen all along, didn’t you? You had it planned from the start.”
Fulton just smiled. Yes, he had suspected that a fight would break out at the dance, and he had seen it as the perfect opportunity to let it all come out. But it was more than just that. He had wanted to bring the Ducks together, to get them all fighting on the same side, like they used to do. You see, Fulton had realised something that hadn’t occurred to any of the others; this was it. After this year, they were leaving on a jet plane to go see the world, and after that, everything would be different. Some of them would go off to play in the juniors, some in the minors, the rest would probably go to some other prep school on hockey scholarships. This was the last school dance they’d have together as a team, and going out the way they had was an experience none of them would ever forget. It was pure Duck magic.
Fulton took a deep hit and breathed out slowly. Crazy. His life was crazy. If anyone had told him when he was younger that this was where he was going to end up at age sixteen, he never would have believed them. He looked over at the boy sitting beside him and smiled. “Love ya,” he said, planting a kiss on Portman’s lips.
“Ditto,” said Portman, returning the favour with a kiss of his own, and snuggling in even closer.
And that was how the Ducks found them the next morning when they came in to wake them up for a little scrimmage action; two enormous enforcers with hearts to match, wrapped in each others arms. True love was be hard to come by these days, and everyone agreed that it couldn’t have happened to a better pair of guys than the Bash Brothers.
Afterword So, that’s about it for the Bash Brothers in Love, hope you all enjoyed. Sorry it came so late, though. I should have it up within the week, she says. What can I say? I’m a lying bitch. As you can see, this chapter was exceedingly long, but you should have seen the first draft; I topped 7,000 words! I’ve always had an awful time trying to pare my stuff down, so that’s why it took so long. I’m separating this from the dance chapter, because I thought you guys might want a little break, and so I wouldn’t feel so badly about rambling.
I’d like to thank all my lovely reviewers, Bottles and Cake-Eater and Xixie and Kelly and everyone else, you guys kick the shit! I don’t think you guys read my stories, but Taiorami and Selena, if you’re out there, what the hell are you trying to do to me? Update, goddamnit! Writing awesome stories should put you under some sort of contractual obligation to update at least once a month. I would like to thank whoever it was who came up with “Fatty McButterpants,” and I hope you won’t mind me stealing it. It just cracked me up when I read it, but now I forget who wrote it. I think it was Cake-Eater or Rock n’Roll, but I’m not sure. Bottles: Thanks so much for the email. Unfortunately, I don’t own a computer, and I have no idea what AIM is. Watership Down is definitely one of the best books of all time; Bottles agrees with me, so to all you virgins out there, go read it now!
I can’t believe that I’ve been writing fan fiction for less than five months! Anyway, as you may or may not know, the kids who got me hooked in the first place with their amazing Queertet stories, are holding nominations for their fan fiction awards, and I strongly encourage everyone to nominate their faves. Star says they’ve only received two noms so far, so get with it, they’re due by May 31st! Why am I plugging these? Because they’re a great way to read a lot of amazing stories, and because the writers should know that they’re appreciated. I am nominating the following stories:
Things Fall Apart, by Bottles
All Locked In by WeBuiltThisCityOnRockAndRoll
And I Fell by Wari
Ice Cream by Selena
Fulton and Portman by BennyP
Crazy Old Man Korean Shop by Fifi Reed
You guys all kick ass, and so do your stories!
As for me, my next story will be a one-shot about Adam and Charlie, a bittersweet little piece of nostalgia that came to me while my friends and I were listening to Van Morrison and smoking a lot of weed. Hope it meets with your approval, Bottles! After that, I’ll be getting back to the F/P, with an A/U story called A World Without Ducks. I got the idea while writing the cabin chapters of this story, when Portman wondered what life would be like if Fulton and he had never met. The story has been plaguing me ever since, and I know if I don’t get it out soon, it’s going to turn into another epic. I’ll give a little more info at the end of my little C/A experiment. I have plans for forays into other facets of Duckie fics for the future, a horror story might be coming next, or an essay-type exposition on my love for the world of Ducks.
Will there be another sequel to the Bash Brothers? Obviously, I ended this one so that it was possible, but it will definitely be awhile, because I have so much I want to write, and I want to make sure my ideas stay fresh. I don’t imagine I’ll be able to stay away from this world forever though. I think my magnum opus, if you will forgive the pompous terminology, will haunt me to the bitter end.
Now even this afterword has reached obscene lengths, so I will leave you here. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to nominate you favourite Duckie fanfics! I would like to dedicate this story to my cat Ghost, whose purrs, kisses and lovebites give me inspiration when nothing else will, and to Elden Henson, who shines on.