The Bash Brothers

The first chapter in the adventures of two alienated (and possibly amorous) enforcers.


Characters: , , , ,


Warning: , , ,


Length: words

Rating: Probably R, as it contains sex, drugs, rock and roll, and all that good stuff!

Feedback: If you please.

Dedication: This story is dedicated to Elden Henson, the real Fulton Reed, without whose boundless talents this world would be an infinitely more dreary place.

Warnings: Drug Use, Homophobia, Slash – gay pairings, Violence – Mild

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?

Summary: The first chapter in the adventures of two alienated (and possibly amorous) enforcers.

Notes: My very first fanfiction!

[nextpage title=”of stolen fingers and ugly hats”]

of stolen fingers and ugly hats

Fulton’s POV
“Fulton! Yo, Fulton, wait up man!”

I stopped walking and waited for Portman to catch up with me.

“So, you ready for the big game tonight, bro?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess so.”

“You guess so? What’s up, buddy, someone die or something?” When I said nothing he continued, “Was it that prick Benson? That guy’s been riding my ass since we got here, and I think he hates you even more than me. What’s his problem anyway? I thought the teachers here were supposed to favor us jocks.”

“I guess he reserves his goodwill for the rich, preppy ones.”

“Well, rich and preppy you’re not,” Portman said, slapping me on the back. “So where to man? I’d say the caf, but it looks like you’re in need of a little herbal stimulation, get your mind off Benson and his bullshit.”

I had to grin at him. Portman can make you grin no matter what, even though my thoughts had been purely homicidal a few minutes ago. “I think you’re right. Let’s go.”

We headed down the hall together, weaved our way through the crowd of kids trying to get into the cafeteria, and ducked into the small corridor that lead to our private “presidential suite” as Portman referred to it. The two of us had discovered the room during the second week of classes, and to my knowledge, we were the only ones who knew about it.

We had been trying unsuccessfully to find the swimming pool when we wound up in this hall instead, which had only five rooms. The first was a grotty old faculty bathroom with a broken sink, then a room filled with busted chairs and music stands, and a couple of janitorial closets. The door at the end of the hall was locked. Portman dared me to pick it, and I had, using a skill I acquired under the tutelage of this kid on my block named Ryan Oldman, who was now in juvie for stealing a car. The door opened onto a long wooden staircase, which lead to an old attic of some sort. It was big and dusty with low slanted wooden ceilings and a window overlooking the courtyard.

We immediately fell in love with the privacy offered by the place, and we now we came up here whenever we could. It was a great place to stash stuff, and to hang out in when we didn’t feel like being around all those Eton kids, but its chief recommendation was that it was the only place inside the school where we could smoke weed.

Portman plopped down on the ancient couch in the corner of the room, sending up a small dusty cloud and causing the springs to groan in protest. I pushed aside a box of old textbooks, pried up the loose floorboard (a cliched but effective hiding spot) and removed the small wooden box stashed underneath before joining Portman on the couch.

“Wanna pass me a book, man?” I asked.

Portman leaned over the arm of the couch and pulled a thick, black leatherbound book out of the box beside him and handed it to me. I had already removed the baggie of weed and was busy cutting up the buds on the book when Portman let out a laugh.

“You know what book that is?” he said, still grinning. “That’s a copy of the bible, dude. I wish the guidance councellor could see us now. That bible-thumping prick McNally’s always saying that the reason I get into trouble is because I haven’t let Jesus into my life.”

“Yeah, he tells me the same thing,” I chuckled as I rolled a fat joint. “Funny, I always thought it was because I keep skipping class. He’d say that this is a prime example of the fundamental moral disintegration of today’s youth.”

“Yeah, we’re all going straight to hell. What do you say, Fulton, should we renounce our evil ways before it’s too late?”

“Nah,” I replied, firing up the j and taking a deep hoot before passing it to Portman. When it felt as if my lungs were about to pop I let the smoke out in a great cloud. “If the only people who get into heaven are guys like McNally, then I don’t really think it’s a place I’d like to be. St. Peter can kiss my ass, cause I’d pick hell anyday.”

“Yeah, hell’d be where it’s at,” Portman wheezed. “Do you think cutting buds on a bible is enough to guarantee us a seat? I mean, isn’t there a law against that type of thing? It’s sac… sacree…”

“Sacriligious,” I finished. I was watching the smoke curl and twist in little ribbons above our heads before it dissipated. It was really pretty.

“Yeah, sacriligious,” Portman said, trying unsuccessfully to blow a smoke ring. I giggled, took a hit, and let the smoke out in a series of perfect O’s. “Show-off,” he muttered.

“What class do we got next, man?” I asked.

“Ummm… I don’t know. What day is it?”

“Tuesday… I think.”

“Then we got English. Romeo and Juliet here we come.” Portman stood up and walked over to the window. He gazed down at the kids gathered in the courtyard while he smoked reflexively. He looked like Sherlock Holmes, but with a better build. And a cuter face. And without that annoying opium habit. “Look at them,” he said. “Bunch of cattle in loafers and sweater vests. Probably all going to grow up to be bankers and lawyers and accountants and have 2.4 kids. Shit, Fulton, what are we doing here?”

I shrugged. “Playing hockey, I guess.” It felt weird for me too. I couldn’t stand most of the kids here. The only Ducks I saw much outside of hockey and class were Charlie, Adam, Julie, Guy and Connie, and even around them I didn’t talk much. But then there was Portman. Without him I’d have dropped out within a week.

“Just tell me we’re not going to end up like them,” he said., gesturing to the kids below.

“Not much of a chance of that, man.” I was staring at my fingers, but they seemed so alien, I could swear they hadn’t looked like that before. What was going on here? An idea came to me: maybe they weren’t my fingers at all, maybe Portman had stolen my fingers somehow and replaced them with his. I eyed his hands suspiciously.

“Dude, what the hell are you staring at?” Portman’s voice broke me out of my marijuana-induced reverie. I tried to think of how to answer, but it sounded stupid even to me, and I burst out laughing instead.

“Your… your hands…” I choked out between giggles.

Portman stared at his hands. “My hands? What about them?”

I was too busy laughing to reply, when Portman leant over to me and showed me his hands. “Look, Fulton, I’ve got hair on my fingers. I’d never noticed that before. Eww! Between the second and third knuckles too! Do you have that?”

“No, only between the first two knuckles,” I said, inspecting my fingers once more. “Third-knuckle hair is a recessive gene, you know.”

“Uh, yeah, I knew that. Who doesn’t? “ Portman said sarcastically. “Hey, was that the bell?”

“I think so, we’d better go.” I rose, packed up the box and returned it to its home. It felt like I was moving in slow, completely fluid motion.

“You know,” Portman said as we walked down the hall. “I’m going to fail English if we don’t stop getting stoned before class.”

“Nah, you never learn anything imporatant in English class. As long as you can write a coherent essay, you’ll be fine. I’ll do the next one for you if you want, though.”

“Thanks, book boy. I knew having you around would come in handy eventually.” Portman opened the door and we went for our usual seats at the back of the room. I sat down, but some girl was already sitting at Portman’s desk. He stood there a moment, then cleared his throat. The girl turned, and I recognized her. She was dating one of the Varsity defensemen. She was a senior. What was she doing in our class? I looked around. The rest of the students, as well as the teacher, were also staring at us. The teacher was a tall balding man with thick black glasses and a gap between his front teeth. He was not our English teacher.

“You aren’t Ms. Kinney,” Portman said in confusion.

“And you aren’t one of my students,” he said drily. “One of us is in the wrong classroom. Care to guess who it is?”

I stood up slowly, grabbed Portman’s wrist and backed out of the room. “Oops,” he said when we were back in the hallway. I could have kissed him he was so cute. We managed to reach the correct room without further incident, and slid into our seats only a few mintutes late. Ms. Kinney seemed not to notice, as she was busy writing quotations on the blackboard, including one from one of my favourite Shakepearean passages of all time, Mercutio’s Queen Mab monologue.

I was spacing out, tracing the gouges in my desk with my fingertips, my thoughts alternating between food and how Guy, who was sitting in front on me, seemed to have resurrected his old green hat, which the rest of the Ducks had prayed was gone forever. I was wondering how he could have seen that thing in a store and thought to himself, ‘Say, that’s a smart looking chapeau. I think I’m going to buy it,’ when the kid on my left (Portman was on my right, and he too was staring off into space) jammed me in the side with his pencil and jerked his head toward the front of the room. Everyone was staring at me. I didn’t know what they wanted, so I just stared right back.

“Didn’t you hear me Fulton? “ Ms. Kinney asked, and I could tell she was annoyed. I shook my head. “Very well, I merely asked you to finish reading where I left off, since it seemed such a fitting passage for you and your friend Dean over there,” Portman looked up at the mention of his name. “Come on now, ‘Love goes toward love… ’”

“‘… as schoolboys from their books, but love from love toward school with heavy looks,’” I murmured, looking down at my desk. I hated talking in front of the class, I hated the feel of their eyes on me, which didn’t turn away when I finished. What now? I didn’t remember anymore, and I didn’t have a copy of the play to look at. “Did you want me to keep going? I uh, left my book in my dorm,” I said. Ms. Kinney only shook her head silently, gave me a strange look, and finally shook her head and continued reading the play. It was then that I realized I must have made a mistake of some kind.

I looked over at Portman, who was watching me with amusement. “What did I do?” I whispered.

“I guess she hadn’t expected you to know the lines by heart,” he grinned. “She wanted to catch you out and you threw it back in her face.”

“Are you kidding? It was just a couple of lines, and pretty memorable ones at that!” But I sort of saw his point. I guess she thought I wasn’t reading the play like I was suppposed to be doing. I wasn’t, but that was only because I’d read it before. I’d have to be more careful in class from now on. The last thing I needed was a chat from Ms. Kinney about untapped potential. Ug.

[nextpage title=”of homophobes and secret crushes”]

of homophobes and secret crushes

Fulton and I were in our dorms, lounging on our beds. We were pretty burnt out, and lacked the energy required to move. Fulton was reading an Edgar Allan Poe book (his favourite author) and I was trying to read Jurassic Park. I was supposed to write a book report on it for next week and I wasn’t even halfway through, but I just couldn’t concentrate. Instead I rolled over onto my side and stared at Fulton, who was completely absorbed in his book. I swear, when he’s reading, the whole building could burn down and he wouldn’t notice. I may not have many brains, but it doesn’t take a lot of them to see that Fulton is real intelligent. He’s the smartest person I know, in fact. Julie may get straight A’s, but she’s always studying and stuff. Fulton doesn’t do that well in school, but that’s only because he never studies or does homework and half the time he’s ripped during class, or else he’s skipping. Plus, I think that sometimes he blows tests on purpose.

The kid is definitely some sort of Math genius. He doesn’t even have the class this semester and he can do my homework and explain stuff to me without even using the textbook, or my notes. He can fix anything, cars, TVs, stereos, and he just knows stuff. Like in English today, Romeo and Juliet? I mean, I know for a fact he hasn’t even read the play, not since we were assigned it anyway. He lost his copy the day Ms. Kinney gave them out, and he hasn’t asked to borrow mine.

I really wanted to talk to him about all this, but I wasn’t sure how he’d take it. Fulton’s a real quiet guy by nature, even around Adam and Charlie and the others, I’m the only one he really talks to much. Even around me he’s real private, I mean he never talks about his family, or things that are bothering him. As a result I’m kinda afraid to ask him personal stuff, I don’t want to scare him off. The thing is, I’m starting to like Fulton. I mean like. It’s been going on for a while now. I thought, actually hoped it would go away, but it’s only gotten stronger. He’s… it’s hard to explain how he is, but I’ve never felt this way about someone before. I guess that means I’m probably gay, doesn’t it? Great, just great. I mean, it’s alright for Adam and Charlie, but I’m a Bash Brother! What if Fulton discovers this and gets creeped out by me? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t, but what if he does? I couldn’t stand to lose him.

My thoughts were interrupted by Julie, who burst in suddenly, looking scared and wild-eyed. “You guys have to come, quick! It’s Varsity! They’ve surrounded Adam and Charlie, I don’t know what they’re…”

Fulton was already on his feet and moving toward the door, and I was right behind him. The three of us set off a dead run down the hall, with Julie in the lead.

I’d known Adam and Charlie liked each other for awhile now, since the Goodwill games, I guess. The way they hugged each other? Then after that I started noticing it all the time, like the way they were always together, and how they’d give each other these long looks when no one was watching. They were never overt, but you could hardly call them discreet, either.

I’m not sure how many of the Ducks know, definitely Fulton, Julie, Guy and Connie, since we spend the most time with them. The others, I don’t know. Some of those guys, like Goldberg and Dwayne seem pretty oblivious, you know? None of us has ever said anything aloud, it’s just kind of understood. So, three queers on the Ducks that I know of. That’s gotta be some kind of record for a hockey team.

We reached a circle of four or five Varsity guys, all of who were gathered around Adam and Charlie, shoving them back and forth and yelling stuff like, “Faggot!” “Homo!” “That’s fucking disgusting!” and “Let’s kick their asses!” A real sensitive bunch, these guys. Fulton ran right through them, pushing them out of the way and exposing Adam and Charlie, who were huddled together, looking scared and angry. I marched up to them and pushed one guy in the chest, sending him stumbling backwards.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I demanded.

“None of your business,” sneered Jason Beck, this creep who plays centre for Varsity.

“Actually, punk, it is our business,” Julie said, stepping up beside me and crossing her arms. “You fuck with one Duck, you fuck with them all.”

Adam and Charlie took this opportunity to get behind me and Julie. Beck tried to go after them but Fulton stepped in front of him, grabbed him by the shirt, and pushed him up against the lockers, which reverberated with a loud BANG in the empty hallway.

“If you ever touch either of them again, or call them names, or so much as look at them the wrong way, I will end you.” He spoke quietly, but there was a fire in his eyes like I’d never seen.

Beck looked freaked, but all his friends were watching and here was this freshman kid pushing him around. He shoved Fulton in the chest and punched him hard in the mouth. Fulton’s head snapped back and he staggered a bit, but then he just turned back to face Beck, wiped the blood from his lip and smiled dangerously.

“Do it again,” he said softly.

Everyone was frozen; the other Varsity kids had backed off, and were now lined up facing us. It was deadly quiet. Beck shook his head, half turned like he was about to walk away, then spun around and took another swing. This time Fulton ducked, and when Beck was thrown off-balance by the follow through, Fulton punched him hard in the stomach. All the air went out of him in a woosh and he doubled up, gasping for breath.

Fulton grabbed his shirt again and hauled him upright. “Like I said, don’t come near them again.” With that he let go of Beck, who promptly fell to his knees, then he turned, and walked away. After a minute, Julie, Charlie, Adam and I followed him.

We all went back to my dorm; Fulton and I sat down on his bed, Adam and Charlie on mine, and Julie took the chair at the desk, turned around so her arms draped over the back. For a while, no one said anything, then Adam broke the silence, when he said rather awkwardly, “So, um, just wanted to thank you guys for know.”

“What happened anyway?” I asked. “Did they hurt you?”

“Oh, no,” Charlie said quickly. “I think they would have, though. It was stupid of us to be holding hands in the hall like that, but we didn’t think anyone was around. Then they all came out of the weight room together and that guy Beck kept asking us if we were going out until I finally said yes and.” His voice trailed off as he suddenly became very interested in his shoelaces. This was the closest we had ever come to addressing his and Charlie’s relationship.

“Bunch of goddamned bigots,” Julie muttered angrily. “If they try anything like that again, I’ll. well, I probably wouldn’t do much, but I’d sic Fulton on them.”

Everybody laughed at that, except Fulton, who blushed slightly.

“Yeah, Fulton, that was great,” Adam said. “I mean, I know you’re a Bash Brother and everything, but that’s on the ice. This was like, straight out of a movie or something.”

“Yeah, like the Karate Kid,” I grinned, giving Fulton a little shove.

He grinned back. “I like Star Wars better, can I be Han Solo?”

“Yeah, sure,” replied Julie. “And Portman here can be Chewie.”

“I guess that makes you Princess Leia?” I had noticed the way she was looking at Fulton. I couldn’t blame her, I was probably looking at him the same way. He was amazing.

“I guess so,” she said innocently.

“Who do I get to be?” Adam asked.

“How about an Ewok?” I suggested. “Or a jawa?” Adam punched me in the arm.

“Ow! You little jawas are stronger that you look!” I cried, blocking his next shot.

“I know!” Julie exclaimed. “You’re C-3PO and Charlie is R2-D2!”

“Good one! I always thought they were a little light on their feet,” I said, as both Adam and Charlie leapt on top of me. I just tucked one of them under each of my arms, and ignoring their kicks and cries of protest, got up and set them back on my bed.

“Yep, you’re definitely Chewie, you big goon,” Charlie muttered, but he was grinning.

“Seriously, though, you two. If any of those guys give you any trouble, just get Fulton or me. Preferably both of us. Not that you need anyone to protect you or anything, it’s just that we’re always in trouble anyways, so it’s no big deal if we’re caught fighting.”

“Yeah,” Fulton added. “I wouldn’t mind getting suspended. I could use a vacation.”

“We’ll be more than happy to oblige if it happens again,” said Charlie. “And you don’t need to worry about insulting our manhood, Portman, we know we can’t take those Varsity guys.”

“I doubt we’ll have to worry about them that much, though,” Adam said thoughtfully. “My guess is, if they do anything, they’ll go after Fulton directly.”

“I’m counting on it,” Fulton said, with a fierce little half-grin.

We all stared at him. We were still staring, in fact, when Connie and Guy walked in.

“Hey, have you guys seen…” Connie trailed off when she saw us all sitting quietly.

“What is this, a town council meeting? How come we weren’t invited?” asked Guy.

Julie filled them in on the day’s events as we headed down to the rink to warm up. I found myself watching Fulton all the time. Since the run-in with Varsity, my attraction for him had grown. He had been so tough and scary, in a sexy kind of way. It wasn’t just me either. I noticed Charlie and Adam watching him with interest, and Julie watching him with more than just that. All in all, it had been a rather unusual, but most enjoyable day.

Oh, and we won the game, too.

[nextpage title=”of concert tickets and accoutrements”]

of concert tickets and accoutrements

Arsenic: it’s a white powder, and because it’s tasteless people are always slipping it into their victims’ food and drinks. There was that movie where the old ladies murdered their brother’s fiancee by putting arsenic on a powdered doughnut.

Cyanide: it’s white and crystalline, often used in extracting gold and silver from mixed metal substances, what do you call them? Ore. It smells like bitter almonds and it’s one of the most–

“Mr. Reed. Mr. Reed!”

Oh, shit, not again. I tore my eyes away from the window and turned to face Mr. Benson. He had his hands on his hips and his eyes were flashing; I could tell he was going to start in on me again.

“Mr. Reed, every day I come here and attempt to pass on to you some fraction of my knowledge of american history. The least you could do is to give me the courtesy of keeping your eyes to the front of the room and feigning either the vaguest interest or comprehension in what I am telling you.”

I looked around me. Goldberg was asleep with his head on his desk a few seats over and was actually snoring softly, while some girl two rows up and to the left – Patricia something-or-other – was drawing a picture of a unicorn in her notebook. I also noticed Charlie, Guy and Connie were half-turned in their seats, eyeing me sympathetically.

“I am only asking, Mr. Reed, that you treat me with respect,” Benson continued. “I understand that this is difficult for you, as you seem to lack a fundamental grasp of the concept. From what I saw in your behaviour towards that boy – #16, was it? – in last night’s game, you don’t respect your opponents, and judging by your attitude, composure, and accoutrements, you don’t respect yourself either. You look like a common street criminal!”

“That was a legal check!” Guy broke in, rather late, but Benson ignored him and went right on staring at me. I met his gaze, but my mind was elsewhere. I was used to his shit, he was like a white-collar version of my father, and I had stopped listening to both of them long ago. I kind of shut my mind off to what’s going on around me, and try to recite passages from books and movies in my head. I still hear what they’re saying, but it’s as if their voices are coming from the end of a long tunnel, and it keeps me from getting so mad over what they’re saying. This time I was using The Masque of the Red Death, by Poe, my favourite writer: And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And the darkness and decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion–

The bell rang, interrupting my recitation, as well as Benson’s tirade. “Read chapter five for tomorrow and answer questions 1-6. I won’t be collecting them, but the material will be covered in a quiz,” he added, still glaring at me.

We all got up and started to leave. I noticed some of the kids were looking at me and snickering. I scowled at them and they froze, then scurried away like frightened mice.

“Nice one, Fulton,” Connie said, putting her hand on my shoulder.

“Yeah man, you sure know how to scare people,” Guy put in as we walked down the hall.

“You should have seen him the other night,” Charlie added. “He was like Arnold Schwarzenegger or something.”

I saw Portman leaning against the wall outside the cafeteria. “In or out?” he asked.

“Out,” I said.

“Where do you guys go during lunch, anyway?” Guy asked.

“Reno, where else?” Portman quipped. “Fulton loves to shoot the craps.”

Guy smiled, shook his head, and followed Charlie and Connie to go join the lunch line while Portman and I took off down our corridor.

“Benson still on your case, man?” Portman asked. When I nodded he grinned. “Want me to kill him for you?”

“Nah, maybe we could just pull his fingernails out instead. Make him scream.”

“Anything you want, buddy,” Portman slapped me on the back. “Connie told me the guy’s got like a personal vendetta against your wardrobe.”

I looked down at myself. I was wearing a black Sonic Youth t-shirt over a long-sleeved white shirt with a torn neck, green army pants and black Converse high-tops. I looked alright to me. “Yeah, though he prefers the term ‘accoutrements,’ the pretentious little prick. But fuck him, man. Let’s go get oblivious.”

I was lying on my back, staring at the ceiling and listening to the new album by And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – man, those Texas boys could rock! – when Portman walked in.

“Hey, what’s up? Oh, shit, I love this album!” Portman flopped down on his bed and pulled out his Math book.

Good, that was the reaction I was hoping for. Now just follow it up with the question….I opened my mouth but nothing came out. What was wrong with me? Portman’s your friend, it’s only natural to ask your friend to go to a concert with you, so ask him already! Be casual, if he doesn’t want to go it’s no big deal. But it was a big deal. I’m not the kind of person who makes friend easily, in fact, for a long time I didn’t have any friends at all, and I didn’t want any, either. Then one day I saw the Ducks – they were still D5 back then – playing hockey on the frozen pond. They just looked like they were having so much fun, even though they really blew. I wanted to be a part of that. I knew I couldn’t be like Charlie or Guy or Connie, just zipping around, chatting to everybody, but I could watch them. And watch them I did. I went to their games, their practices, I even followed them to the sports store when they got new equipment. I like watching people, trying to figure them out, it’s sort of a hobby of mine, and after a few weeks of watching the Ducks, I felt as if I knew each of them.

Even after I joined the team, I wasn’t really close with anyone, except maybe Charlie, but then Portman came along. I guess it started because we were both enforcers and liked the same sort of music, but over time my feelings for him grew into something more, and now I kind of liked him. I mean really liked him. He doesn’t know, of course, he can’t possibly reciprocate, and I’d die before I’d tell him. Still, I shouldn’t be too much of a pussy to ask him to go to a concert with me. I mean, it’s not like it would be a date or anything…

“Hey, Fulton, sorry to bother you, but this shit is totally over my head. Do you think you could help me out?”

“Sure.” I jumped off my bed and sat down beside him on his, taking his textbook and looking it over. “Oh, you’ve started trig, huh?”

“Yeah, it’s a real bitch.”

“To start with, yeah, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a piece of cake. Do you want me to turn down the music so you can concentrate?”

“Hell no, I love these guys!”

Alright Fulton, time to give it another shot. “They’re, uh, coming to town, you know,” I said casually, looking at the wall.

“You’re shitting me, when?”

“The 20th. They’re playing at the Coliseum.”

“Oh, man, we gotta go! Where can we get tickets?”

Portman couldn’t sit still till we got them, so we borrowed Adam’s credit card and ordered them by phone. Back in our dorm, all the while I was helping Portman with his math, I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s times like this, when everything works out better than you could have imagined, that make me wonder if maybe there is a god. Someone up there must like me.

[nextpage title=”of time travel and fruit pies”]

of time travel and fruit pies

Gym class was over and Adam and I had just finished getting changed and were waiting for Guy when the trouble started. Beck and two of his friends walked into the change room. He took one look at us, then turned to his buddies and the three of them advanced on us, grinning like sharks.

“Well, well, if it isn’t the two little fairies. How you doin’, girls?”

I wanted to laugh. His words were right out of a prison movie. The urge left me rather suddenly, however, when I noticed that there was no one else in the room. We were alone with Beck and his goons. This was not good. Adam and I looked at each other nervously.

Just the, Guy walked out of one of the shower stalls, rubbing his hair with a towel. He stopped when he saw Beck and the others and was about to say something when Adam caught his eye and jerked his head toward the door. Guy nodded, and slipped out quietly.

“So girls, what’s it gonna be?” Beck menaced, towering over us.

“Well,” Adam said quietly. “Given that you’ve each got at least 50 pounds on us and outnumber us three to one, I’d say it’s fairly likely we’re going to get our asses kicked.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud.

“Oh, you think that’s funny, you filthy little faggot?” Beck spat venomously. “Well, let’s see if you can laugh your way out of this one. Danny, Robert, grab them.”

Danny and Robert, who didn’t seem to notice the stale cliches Beck kept churning out, complied. Adam and I fought, but those guys were huge, and it wasn’t long before they had our arms pinned behind us in some kind of wrestler’s hold so we couldn’t move.

“You two are disgusting, you know that? You make me SICK.” Beck punctuated this last word with a hard blow to Adam’s stomach. Adam tried to double up, but the guy holding him was too strong, so he just stood there, his eyes wide, mouth opening and closing like a fish as he struggled to breathe.

“You asshole! I’ll kill you!” I screamed, and I started to struggle madly, kicking and twisting so the guy holding me had to fight to keep his grip. I was almost loose when Beck hit me in the jaw and I went limp, bright star-like images dancing before my eyes.

You really do see stars, I thought dimly. Just like in the movies… Just then the door slammed open and Fulton charged in, followed closely by Portman and Guy. He threw himself at Beck, hitting him in the middle and knocking him to the ground in a classic football tackle.

“What did I tell you, huh? You slimy bastard, what did I tell you?” Fulton was sitting on Beck’s chest, shaking him so hard his head flopped back and forth like a rag doll. Portman and Guy came at the guys holding Adam and me, but they let go of us immediately and backed up, both of them casting uneasy glances toward Fulton. He hit Beck twice in the face, splitting his lip with the first blow and bloodying his nose with the second.

“Enough, man, I give up!” Beck cried.

Fulton hauled Beck to his feet and slammed him against the lockers. “You think you’re tough, you fucking pussy? This how you get your kicks, jumping kids half your size? You want a fight, you got one! Come on, man, I’m ready!” Fulton backed up and spread his arms in invitation. His eyes were flashing furiously. I’d never seen him like this before, and to tell you the truth, I was a little scared.

Guy took a step forward, as if he was about to get between them, but Portman put a hand on his shoulder and shook his head silently. Beck was holding his nose, which was dripping blood all over the floor. He was looking at Fulton, who was glowering at him, his fists clenched at his side, his muscles taut and ready, and I could tell he was trying to decide if he could take him. Beck had about three inches on Fulton, but not much weight, and you could see he was freaked by Fulton’s anger as well.

Finally, Beck raised his bloody hands in the air and backed up a step. “Alright, man, peace.” He and his friends started to go but Portman grabbed his shoulder.

“That’s two strikes you got now, man. You got off easy on both of ‘em. A word of advice: don’t go for three.” Beck nodded, and the three of them left, noticeably subdued.

“Are you guys alright?” Guy asked in concern, stepping toward us.

“We’re fine, thanks to you guys,” Adam said, holding his stomach.

“Yeah, thanks, you really saved our asses,” I said, rubbing my jaw.

“Come on, we’d better go get some ice for that,” Fulton said softly, leading us towards the door. He seemed perfectly normal, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, but when I looked closer I noticed he was trembling slightly, and was wearing the same little half-smile he’d had after our first run-in with Beck. He had enjoyed himself.

Back in Fulton and Portman’s dorm we all sat down, Adam and I on one bed, Fulton and Portman on the other, while Guy went to get some ice, as well as Connie and Julie. When they got back, Adam and I told them what had happened while Fulton wrapped the ice in a towel and handed it to me.

“Just hold it against your jaw for 10 minutes or so. I know it’s cold, but this way it won’t swell up like you’ve got mumps.”

“What the hell are mumps, anyway?” Portman wondered.

Fulton looked around, and when no one else answered, he muttered, “Swelling of the salivary glands.”

“I just can’t believe those pricks came after you again,” Connie said angrily. “I wish I had been there just to see the look on Beck’s face when Fulton jumped on him.”

“Must have felt pretty good to hit him, huh Fulton?” Julie asked. Fulton grinned, and nodded.

“Oh, he liked it alright. Maybe a little too much.” Portman said slyly. “Our boy Fulton here’s got a real violent streak, don’t you, buddy?” Fulton blushed slightly, and looked down at the ground.

“Yeah, but only when they deserve it,” Adam put in. “It’s the same in hockey. You never hit from behind or anything, and you only go after guys who’ve just slashed one of us or something.”

“Yeah, man, you’re like our bodyguard,” I said.

“Well, I doubt you’ll have to worry about Beck and his friends again. Fulton really put the fear of God into them, but remember to be careful all the same, okay?” Portman smiled, looking at me and Adam. “We really can’t afford to lose you guys, you’re two of our best scorers.”

“We’ll be careful,”

“So,it’s Friday night, and we don’t have a game till Sunday. You guys want to do something together?” Julie asked.

We all nodded. Nothing like a good gay-bashing to bring people together.

“So, you want to go to a movie or something?” Guy asked.

“Nah, let’s just hang out together somewhere. Fulton, since you’re the hero of the night, you get to choose. What do you want to do?” Julie asked, looking at Fulton with more than a little admiration in her eyes.

Fulton shrugged, as I knew he would. “I don’t know.”

“Well, come on, what do you and normally do? You and Portman?” I asked.

Fulton and Portman looked at each other, and grinned. “You guys up for trying something new?” Portman asked.

“So I guess what I’m trying to say is that time travel is more than just possible, it’s something we all come across on a regular basis, though most of us are too blind to recognize it for what it is,” Adam finished.

I knew exactly what he meant. “That’s incredible, man, I totally get where you’re coming from, it’s like you put words to these thoughts that I’ve had in my head for.forever!” I said breathlessly, staring into his beautiful brown eyes in awe and admiration.

“Isn’t it amazing that two people can just connect like this, sort of as if they were of…”

“… one mind,” we finished together. We stared at each other in utter shock for several long moments, simply marveling at the staggering impact of it all

“Wow,” I said finally. “Wow.”

Beside us, a few feet away, Guy and Connie collapsed into each other’s arms, overcome by fits of hysterical laughter, and even though I didn’t know what they were laughing about, I felt I understood them as well. The seven of us were gathered around on the grassy area that surrounded the football field, sprawled under the trees (or, in the case of Julie,Fulton and Portman, climbing them) that ran alongside it. The tree above us suddenly gave a tremble as something heavy hit one of its branches.

“Hee, hee! I’m Tarzan!” Julie giggled. “Aaah-aah-ooah-aaah-ooah!”

“Was that supposed to be Tarzan’s jungle cry?” Guy called up. “Because if so, it really needs some work, sweetheart.” That set him and Connie off on another laughing fit, and this time Adam and I joined in.

“Hey!” Julie cried down in a voice of great indignation. “that was an awesome jungle cry!”

I heard Fulton and Portman start to laugh as well, and Julie finally gave up and joined in. When we had finally calmed down, everyone gave a great collective sigh, and that started us going again.

“No more, please, no more,” Connie cried, holding her stomach. “If I don’t get to a bathroom soon, I’m going to pee!”

“Mmmm, bathroom, that makes me think of food,” called Portman from up in his tree. “Why don’t we head down to the 7-11? Connie can use the bathroom and we can pick up some munchies.”

“That’s like, the best idea in the history of the world,” I said admiringly, and Portman laughed.

“Man, Fulton, we shouldn’t have started these good, clean, wholesome kids off on our killer skunk. They’re baked out of their fucking heads.”

“And you’re not, George of the Jungle?” Adam said slyly. “Hey, that was really witty.”

“Hey, is this what you and Portman are doing during lunch all the time?” Julie asked.

“Mostly,” Fulton said. “So I guess the two of us corrupted you guys, huh?”

“Oh well, it had to happen sooner or later.”

“Yeah, I always wanted to be a bed influence. Let’s go, “Portman said, jumping down out of the tree. Fulton followed him too quickly and landed half on top of him, and the two of them rolled over together, cackling madly.

After Julie had disentangled herself from the branches, we set off down the road.

“Hey, maybe we can get some doughnuts, too,” Connie said, licking her lips. “Isn’t there a doughnut shop beside the7-11?”, “Yeah, they must have had stoners like you two in mind,” I giggled.

“Aaaah, yes,” Fulton said, his eyes misty with faux nostalgia. “Many a time have we frequented those establishments, satisfying our palates with krullers and Dortios and gummy worms.”

“And Snickers and Slurpees and those little plastic sticks with the flavoured power inside them. Oh God, I’m hungry, “ I moaned.

“We’ve been walking forever,” Guy groaned. “I had no idea it was this far away.”

Just then we turned a corner and spotted the bright sign of the 7-11, and it was all I could do to keep myself from wrapping my arms around it. It was like dying of thirst in the desert, and then coming across an oasis. Inside we loaded ourselves up with junk food of every kind: chocolate and cheezies and penny candy, Slurpees and twinkees and nachos. Fulton insisted we each get a Hostess fruit pie, and he and Portman each bought three.

“You’ll know what I mean when you try one, man. They’re incredible.”

We were just leaving the store with our purchases and were heading for the Dunkin” Donuts next door when a yellow Mustang tore into a parking spot right in front of us and four guys got out. They looked about 18 or 19.

They walked toward us, sizing us up, and Fulton and Portman automatically stepped in front of the rest of us, but they just went on past us, heading for the pub located beside the doughnut shop. When they reached the door, one of them said something to the others and they turned around, looking at Julie.

“You’re right,” one of them said. “She has got a fine ass.”

“Hey, sugar, you want to come for a ride with us?” another one leered.

Fulton headed towards them, but they just laughed and ducked inside. We all stood there for a moment, not talking, then Julie laughed and said, “Hey, come on guys. They’re just a couple of pigs. Forget about them and let’s go get some doughnuts.”

W headed inside and managed with some difficulty to convey our orders to the girl at the counter and were on our way out when Fulton stopped, looking at the Mustang. “Hold up, you guys, I got an idea.” His eyes were gleaming. “Portman, can you see those guys in there?” He pointed toward the bar.

Portman peered in the window and nodded. “Yeah, they’re sitting in a booth, throwing peanuts at the waitress. Stupid little pricks.”

“Alright, stay there and make sure they don’t leave, okay?”

“Sure, man. Do you have something good in mind?”

“Oh yeah. Connie, hand me one of those cream-filled doughnuts.”

Connie obliged, and Fulton walked over to the driver’s side of the Mustang where the window was cracked a couple of inches. He jammed the doughnut through the window and it landed, chocolate side down, on the driver’s seat. I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but Fulton wasn’t satisfied. He picked up a stick that was lying on the ground and threaded it through the window, piercing the doughnut. Then he rubbed it around, smearing chocolate and Boston cream allover the seats.

“There,” he said happily. “Let’s go.”

All the way back, I couldn’t stop imagining the looks on those guys’ faces when they saw the mess Fulton had made of their upholstery.

“I hope they sit in it!” Guy giggled.

Back at the school, we returned to our grassy area to consume our feast, and I swear food had never tasted so good.

“I can’t believe it, these are incredible,” Connie said, scarfing three doughnuts in under a minute.

“Fulton, you were right, these fruit pies are awesome,” Guy managed between bites.

“Told yah,” Fulton grinned, polishing off his second.

“Gross, man, you got crumbs and cherry gunk all over your face. You look like a vampire of a zombie or something.”

“Maybe I am.” Fulton stood up and staggered towards Portman with his arms stretched out, grabbing him by the shoulders and pretending to bite his neck. It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen.

“Eewww! Portman! Fulton got goop all over your neck!” Adam shrieked. I looked over at him adoringly, and took his hand in mine. He looked back at me and smiled. It had been the perfect evening. Beck was off our case for good, Fulton was finally starting to open his mouth, these fruit pies really were amazing, and I was with Adam. I’d never felt so content. Or so in love.

[nextpage title=”of mosh pits and first kisses”]

of mosh pits and first kisses

Author’s Notes: Before I begin, I must warn you, I have made a change. Portman now lives in Minneapolis instead of Chicago. I apologize for this transgression, I tried writing it the correct way, but having Portman and Fulton as neighbours turned out to be just too tempting, as it allowed them to know each other better, and for me to explore their families in a coherent fashion. Once again, I apologize for this, and hope that my readers can look past my own self-indulgence.

Hot, sweaty bodies pushing, grabbing, slamming into me again and again. The air around me was alive with energy, the pulsating beat reverberating through my body in waves. I looked over beside me at Fulton. Staring straight ahead he too is lost, carried away by the crowd and the music. It’s as if I’m falling, disappearing into an abyss of sound waves, completely overtaken by some beautiful, musical force. The drums pound out an intoxicating rhythm and the guitars wail accusingly as the voice sings out: ‘Reason to doubt, so pry your eyes, from the film that never ends. I’m so damned, I can’t win, with my heart in my hands again. Ride the apocalypse.”

Riding the apocalypse, that’s what I was doing. The world was coming to an end, we were all going to hell, who cares? Not me, not so long as the music kept playing. Suddenly a particularly enormous guy slammed into Fulton, sending him crashing into my arms. Fulton looked at him, then at me, and grinned, jerking his head upwards. It was as if he had read my mind. A few moments later we were in the air – thanks to King Kong back there – sailing over the crowd, riding them, riding the apocalypse. In times like these, all sense of memory, all your past concerns and future dreams seem to fade away. There is only the present, only these single moments spread before me like photographs, spanning all eternity. I have always been here, and will always be here. There is nothing else.

We eventually retired from the pit for awhile in order to relax, rejuvenate, and replenish the marijuana supply in our bloodstreams. We’d already chomped some mushrooms earlier that evening, and the combined effects of the drugs lead to a very heady experience, indeed. We sat together on the floor among other isolated pockets of people, swaying to the music, which had now turned to the rapturous melodies of How Near, How Far: ‘She stands with arms stretched out, towards the mountains and the clouds. Oil painted eyes, blind yet hypnotized. I swear I know not why these eyes have always left me dry. How near, how far, how lost they are… ’ I listened, watching the four boys from Texas thrash around on the stage. Spectacular. You could see the heat from all the bodies rising up in a great cloud, hovering above the pit.

“This music,” Fulton said slowly, staring straight ahead. “This music, it… it…”

“It makes the world go away,” I finished softly.

He turned to look at me then, met my eyes and held them for a long moment before saying, “Yes.”

One word. He could level me with just that one word. Yes. I reached out my hand and touched his cheek, staring into his dark, dark eyes that seemed to hold everything in their orbs, all the world’s knowledge, all its pain and sadness and joy and hope and… love.

“Yes,” he said again, and the next thing I knew I was kissing him and the world was spinning all around me and I could feel his tongue, his soft, full lips and oh dear god, he was kissing me back. This is it, I thought, I’ve reached the high water mark. Life can’t possibly get any better than this. *Stop time.*

Walking back from the concert in a kind of daze, I felt spent. So much energy, so many emotions, and instead of feeling as if I had reached the end of it, I had the sense of something new just beginning. But maybe that was just the drugs talking. Maybe I would wake up tomorrow and this feeling would be gone and life would be the same as it had been before, but I didn’t think so.

We didn’t speak much, we just walked, appreciating the feel of the cool night air on our hot skin, breathing it in in great thirsty gulps. It was well past midnight and we were in our neighbourhood now, walking down the cracked and broken sidewalks, alongside chain-link fences and run-down convenience stores and discount butcher shops with overturned garbage cans in front of them. Three guys suddenly came tearing down the street toward us, and as we backed up against the fence to let them pass, we heard the wail of a police siren approaching. The kids, who weren’t much older than us, ducked into an alley and vanished from sight. Moments later the cop car came into view. It sped down the road and continued on past the alley, then took a left and it too disappeared. Fulton and I resumed walking, enveloped by silence once more.

We entered a more residential area, and now disembodied voices came floating out of the windows toward us. A baby cried, a man yelled and a woman screamed. A group of teenagers was hanging out on a doorstep, smoking, talking and laughing. An old man with stooped shoulders shuffled slowly down the street, two large paper bags full of groceries in his arms. The people here were hard and sad, almost as worn-down as the buildings they lived in. They were born here and they died here. A few got out, but they were in the minority. Sometimes I felt as if this place were a vacuum, sucking away at the souls of all who lived here.

I knew it would probably get me eventually, just as it had got my mother. When she and my stepfather split almost a year ago, he stayed in out old apartment and my mom got a new place about half a dozen blocks away. Her latest boyfriend had moved in a couple of months ago, and while I couldn’t stand him (the feeling was mutual), I liked the apartment just fine; it put me closer to Fulton.

Some people say this place is alive, that it’s hungry and cruel, and I usually feel the same way, but not tonight. Tonight this place isn’t evil, it just is. It is my home, a place I know like the back of my hand, every street, every corner, every brick. It’s a place I understand, a place I share with Fulton. I looked over at him then, wondering what was going on inside his head. Was he thinking about the same things I was? Maybe, but I doubted it. With all those books he read, I bet he was off in another world, imagining a different place, a better place.

We reached the entrance to my apartment, and stopped outside the door. “Do you want to come up, get something to eat?” Fulton’s father spent most of their money on booze, and his mom spent the rest on pills, so they never had much food at his place.

“Sure,” he smiled. Illuminated as he was by the soft yellow glow of the streetlights, he looked a lot younger than 15, almost angelic, like he’s just been sent down to earth.

We climbed the five flights of stairs to my place (the elevator had been broken for weeks) and I was just fishing my keys out of my pocket when I heard moaning coming from inside. Then there was the crashing and tinkling of something being broken, followed by a heavy pounding against the wall, loud squeaking and more moans.

“My place?”

“Your place.” I returned my keys to my pocket and headed back down the stairs.

It was only a few minutes’ walk to Fulton’s building. His parents lived on the ground floor, since his dad was the superintendent. This meant they got full use of the basement and boiler room, which were situated half underground. This was a good thing, since their apartment was only a one-bedroom. We went down the alley that ran alongside the building, separating it from the pawn shop next door. Fulton pushed open the window to the basement and slipped inside. I followed, but as soon as my feet hit the floor I froze. It was so black I couldn’t see a thing. I could hear Fulton moving around in the dark, and the room was suddenly lit by a single naked bulb hanging from the ceiling.

The floor and walls were cement, and the boiler and electrical boxes ran along the right wall, the wires, pipes and ducts all threading up through the ceiling. Fulton slept on the left, in an old storage room. It too was lit by a single bulb, with a cast iron cot against one wall.

I had helped Fulton clear out all the old paint cans and two-by-fours and scrap metal about eight months ago, up till then he’d been sleeping on the living room couch, which hadn’t been good for anybody, he’d just spent most nights at my place. Now, I came here more often; it was private and isolated, and Fulton the electrical genius had managed to put an outlet in there for his ghetto blaster, as well as run a cable line off some poor sap, which he had hooked up to a little t.v. and vcr he’d got from God knows where.

The bed was too small for both of us, but Fulton kept an old mattress under his bed, which he pulled out whenever I spent the night. We both sat down on the cot, and Fulton leant over to rummage around in one of the cardboard boxes at the foot of the bed. Eventually he gave up his search and leaned back against the wall.

“Sorry, dude, I thought I had some Cheese Nips, but I must have finished them off. You want to go see if there’s anything upstairs?”

“Nah, I ain’t that hungry.”

We sat there in silence for a while, then Fulton said, “Man, that was a killer show.”

“Sure was. Those guys are the best.”

We just sat there on the bed, carrying on with conversation while Fulton rolled a joint to wind us down, and we toked on that, gradually filling the little room with smoke. We talked and talked, about what I don’t really remember, we were both kind of out of it, and I kept going back and replaying that kiss over and over in my mind. I don’t know how long we sat there, talking and smoking, because the next thing I remember was waking up to find myself lying on the cot, Fulton crammed in half on top of me, with his head on my chest and my arm wrapped around his shoulders. So this is what it feels like to be in love, I thought to myself, as I stared happily up at the ceiling, waiting for Fulton to wake up.

[nextpage title=”of happy thoughts and conscious dreams”]

of happy thoughts and conscious dreams

You ever have those times when you suddenly become aware that you’re happy, that at this particular moment in space and time, you are truly glad to be alive? Everybody has them, I think; they often pop up when you’re doing something relatively simple, and later on you can remember having the feeling, but not where you were or what brought it on, and trying to remember what it actually felt like is even harder.

I woke up that morning after the Trail of Dead concert in the throes of the most passionate one of those feelings I have ever had, and for a few moments I couldn’t remember what the hell I had to be so damn happy about. Then I realised why the bed was so cramped and it all came back to me in a rush. I must have let out a little gasp or something because Portman laughed and said, “Ah, she stirs, the lady stirs. Welcome back to the land of the living, Sleeping Beauty.”

“I’m impressed. Quoting Shakespeare, and at this ungodly hour, no less. So you were listening in English after all.”

“Yeah, some of the material must have seeped in while I was asleep. Guess this means I should give those night-time weight loss tapes a shot.”

“You’d better. I’m sick of looking at your fat ass all the time.”

He gave me a playful shove which, coming from Portman, was enough to send me crashing unceremoniously to the floor. I propped myself up on my elbows and looked up at him. He returned my gaze for a moment, then dropped his eyes and said hurriedly, “So, we heading back to school today, or we gonna hang out here?”

I shrugged. “Dunno. What do you want to do?”

“Let’s head back tomorrow, then we won’t have to worry about that damn curfew.”

“Like we do anyway. It’s pretty ironic, don’t you think, that they only care what time we get in when we’re away from home?”

“Yeah,” Portman grinned as he rose from the bed and removed his shirt in one beautiful, fluid motion. “You’d think it’d be the other way around.”

He plucked a shirt and a pair of socks from one of the boxes by the bed and started putting them on. I had to consciously restrain myself from making a flying tackle to stop him as I watched the last intoxicating glimpse of his smooth hairless chest and shockingly well-defined pectoral muscles disappear under a long-sleeved, faded black Pearl Jam t-shirt.

While Portman headed home to take a shower, I went upstairs to do the same, my mind filled with decidedly unchristian thoughts. Had the kiss from last night meant anything to him, or was he just stoned? If he felt like I did, what next? Should we talk about it? Will it fuck up our friendship? Can I kiss him whenever I want now? All these questions and more raced through my mind as I climbed the stairs. When I reached the door connecting the basement to my apartment, I paused, listening for any telltale signs of who was home or what was going on. Given my father’s rather volatile nature, I have learned this is wise. Hearing nothing, I ventured inside.

The door lets onto the hall, leading on the left to the bedroom and bathroom, and on the right to the kitchen, which in turns opens directly onto the living room. It was in the latter that I found my mother, draped half-on, half-off of the old green sofa which constituted the entirety of furniture in the little room, save for a wobbly coffee table adorned with deep gouges and littered with beer cans and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts.

Her legs were splayed in different directions over the sofa’s arms, and her head and upper body hung over the edge, her short, unkempt red hair brushing the carpet. I approached her, and saw with no surprise that her eyes were glazed and unfocussed, the pupils fixed and dilated; she didn’t seem to notice my presence at all. My mother is basically a nice person, and I love her and everything, but she has a tendency toward excessive self-medication that often overrides her better qualities.

I picked her up and set her back properly on the couch, then knelt down beside her, took her chin firmly in my hand and turned her face toward mine.

“Hi Mom,” I said, loudly and clearly. “How are you?”

Her eyes cleared and flickered around the room as she took in me and her surroundings before she responded, “Fulton, honey, there you are. Your father’s been looking for you. He was quite upset…” Her voice trailed off and her eyelids fluttered as she smiled benignly.

I shook her shoulder gently. “What does he want? Where is he?”

“The car… gone to get more beer…” Her eyes closed again and she sighed happily. “Darling, could you get me a glass of water?”

I went to the kitchen to comply, but when I returned, she was either asleep or passed out, so I set the glass down on the table and picked up the pill bottles scattered about on the floor. It drove Dad nuts to see them lying around. I checked the labels, looked like she’d been mixing them again. Percodan and amphetamines, always a good combination; they’ll put you out like a light, but give you some seriously whacked out dreams so real and intense you often can’t tell if you’re asleep or awake. I snaked a couple of the amphies before sticking all the bottles back into her purse.

After that, I hopped into the shower. Dad must have wanted me to pick him up a six-pack, before giving up and driving to the liquor store himself, at least that was what I’d surmised from the semi-coherent ramblings of my mother. He was always getting me to pick up beer and shit for him, and since I’m pretty big for my age and have a good fake I.D., it’s never any problem.

Hopefully I’ll be gone by the time he comes back; if I run into him he’ll probably try to start something. When Mom’s popping pills like they’re popcorn and Dad’s plastered before noon, I’d say it qualifies as an ‘avoid all contact day.”

My mother and father have been serious substance and alcohol abusers, respectively, for as long as I can remember, but while my father’s exploits have made me vow never to take a drink in my life, for some reason I don’t feel the same way about drugs. I keep away from the hard stuff, sure, as well as anything habit-forming, and I’m careful to keep excursions into even the more harmless pills like my mom’s amphetamines to a minimum, but I gotta say I’m a big fan of weed. I mean, it barely qualifies as a drug in my opinion. It merely provides non-addictive, harmless fun without any adverse side-effects, short or long term. I wish the government would get with it and legalise the shit already. If I had children I’d far prefer them using pot than drinking, I mean, you don’t hear about people getting into car wrecks or beating up on their kids because they were stoned, do you?

I do have to be careful though, because there’s no way I’m going to get all drug-dependent like my mother. My dad’s convinced I’m going to wind up just like her, many of our worst fights have stemmed form his belief that I’m destined to become a ‘goddamned junkie.’ I’m not that concerned, however. During some of her more lucid moments, my mom told me that she got so heavy into pills because she was always depressed when she was young, and while I know that sort of condition is highly genetic, I seriously doubt I carry the genes. I just can’t stay sad for very long at all. I don’t know why, it just fades away real fast, no matter what. I guess I compensate for that with my quick temper and propensity for violence, but I’d pick my way over hers any day.

I finished my shower, dried off, got dressed, quickly checked the kitchen cupboards for food and, finding none, said goodbye to my happily oblivious mother and headed for Portman’s, rather pleased with myself for having successfully avoided my father. It was only later that I came to wish I hadn’t.

Author’s Notes: I know the last entry was short, and this one and it should really comprise a single chapter, but it was just too long, and this was the only possible place to break it up into two more manageable chunks. Also, fear not, Benny P, Fulton and Portman won’t be indulging in any illicit substances for a while after this chapter, but don’t expect them to give up the weed any time soon (I don’t really consider it an illicit substance). I see it as a very fitting adjunct to their personalities; plus they are 15, and I don’t know about you guys, but the greatest part of my 15th year was spent in a cloud of smoke. I am from Vancouver, after all. No need to get your panties in a bunch though, I guarantee their love is true and pure, and not the result of any substance other than their own hearts. Wait and see.

[nextpage title=”of laundromats and amphetamines”]

of laundromats and amphetamines

When I knocked on Portman’s door, his mother’s boyfriend answered, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts, scratching the hair on his chest. He looked me up and down, and his lip noticeably curled before he stepped aside to let me in.

“Dean’s in the shower,” he grunted, then settled into his easy chair and went back to his football game.

I just headed straight for Portman’s room to wait for him, but his mother poked her head out of her bedroom and called out cheerfully, “Fulton, darling! How are you? Can you come here a sec?”

I followed her back into the bedroom, but stopped dead when I saw she was clad in nothing but her underwear. I stared intently at the ground while she slipped on some nylons. Portman’s mom sure makes me uncomfortable. I mean, she’s real nice to me and everything, but she’s always kissing my cheek and rubbing my hair and patting my arm and stuff. I guess it’s just the way she is, she’s always hanging off Aaron, or whoever she’s involved with at the time (there’s always somebody), sitting in his lap and stuff, and she often starts necking with him right in front of us. I feel bad for Portman, he’s pretty embarrassed by it.

She had finished with her stockings, and when she saw me looking at the floor she laughed. “Don’t be so shy, silly,” she said leaning over and rubbing my shoulder. “Would you mind handing me my uniform? It’s hanging on the doorknob.”

She was a waitress at a local diner, and as she slipped on the uniform, a low-cut pink dress with a short skirt, she asked, “So, how’s school? Is hockey going okay?”

“Um, pretty good,” I mumbled, still feigning a great interest in my shoelaces. “We’re 5 and 1 so far. Portman’s doing great, he scored two goals last time.”

“Well, isn’t that just wonderful? Do you think you could zip me up, dear?” She turned around and pulled her long, curly blonde hair, which looked decidedly fried from being dyed too much, off her neck. I felt like a deer in headlights. I moved forward slowly, pulled up the zipper, then stepped quickly back, so quickly that I backed right into Portman, who was just emerging from the shower with a towel around his waist. He stumbled backwards and hit the wall opposite the door, dropping the towel in the process.

I spun around and saw him standing there, completely naked. I let out a little yelp and quickly turned back to the relative decency of his now fully-clothed mother.

I could hear Portman retreating to his room while Aaron laughed loudly in the background. He returned a few moments later, dressed and blushing furiously. “Come on,” he said, not looking me in the face. “Let’s get out of here.”

Thank God, I wanted to say, but instead I just nodded. “Bye Ms. Portman,” I muttered.

“Oh, are you boys going out? Would you mind picking up a few things for me at the grocery store? Of, let’s see, we need eggs and coffee and umm…”

“Mom, I buy the groceries every time I come home. I know what we need.”

“Of course you do, sweetheart. Oh dear, I don’t seem to have enough cash. I’ll write you a blank cheque, alright?”

Portman took the cheque and we started to leave. We were in the living room when his mother came running out, mascara in one hand, and a black high-heeled shoe in the other.

“Oh, Dean honey, could you pick me up a bottle of wine as well? Just a cheap red.”

“Mom, I’m not old enough to–” Portman started, but I elbowed him and he finished, “uh, yeah, sure.”

This time he actually had his hand on the doorknob when Aaron called out, “Just a minute there, cowboy. Aren’t you forgetting something?”

Portman turned around slowly. He stared at Aaron for a minute before saying, “What are you talking about?”

I could tell he was struggling to keep his voice level. Portman really hated his mother’s latest love interest, and I could see why. The guy was always playing little power games, trying to show Portman who was boss.

“Don’t get wise with me, kiddo. You promised your momma you’d do the laundry next time you came home.”

“What do you mean? I never said–”

“You calling me a liar, boy?” Aaron said in what I’m sure he thought was a dangerous voice, rising out of his easy chair.

Portman crossed his arms and opened his mouth to say something, but his mother stepped between them and smiled at Portman.

“Would you mind, dear? I’m pulling a double shift today, and it would really help me out.” She held out a couple of crumpled dollar bills and smiled sweetly.

“Fine, whatever,” Portman muttered, taking the money while I ran and stuffed the laundry from the hamper into a large duffel bag.

“Thanks a bunch, sweetie,” she said, then turned to me and kissed me on the cheek, then ran her fingers through my hair. “Nice to see you again, Fulton dear. My, your hair is lovely. It’s so long and soft. I keep telling Dean to start growing his out, but he just won’t listen.”

She was still fingering my hair when Portman grabbed my arm and pulled me out the door. I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief as we left the building.

“Sorry about that, dude,” Portman said, jamming his hands in his pockets as we walked down the street.

“Hey, no worries, I’m just glad you and that Aaron guy didn’t go at it.”

“Yeah, I hate that guy, he’s such a prick. I mean, most of my mom’s boyfriends just want to pretend I’m not there. What’s his problem anyways?”

“Forget about him,” I said as we reached the laundromat and went inside. “We head back to school tomorrow, and the next time we come home, ten to one your mom’s broken up with him or something.”

“Yeah,” Portman said, stuffing the white clothes in a washing machine while I stuck the coloureds in the one adjacent. “She gets bored real easy.” He went to get change for the machines while I looked around.

You always see the most interesting people at the laundromat. There was an old woman in a ratty pink bathrobe and slippers with flyaway grey hair, yelling about stolen fabric softener. Beside her was the likely perpetrator of the crime, a rail-thin, greasy-haired guy in his twenties with no shoes, who was busy stuffing a bottle of no-name fabric softener into his basket and covering it with clothes. Across the aisle was a woman with a missing front tooth, who looked forty-five at first glance, but was probably at least ten years younger. She was taking a pull from a bottle in a brown paper bag while her two young children chased each other back and forth in front of her, chocolate smeared all over their faces and down the front of their clothes. She took no notice of them. She had bleach-blonde hair with dark roots, and her lips were blurry and red. There were mascara streaks on her face and I saw that she was crying silently as she took another drink.

Portman returned then with a handful of quarters and handed some to me, putting an end to my observations. I looked over at him as I plugged 50 cents into my machine. He wasn’t saying anything, a real rarity for him, and his lips were pressed tightly together. I could tell he was pretty upset. I racked my brains for something to say. I didn’t know if I should change the subject or try to get him to talk about it. If it was me, I’d just want to forget it and move on, but Portman might feel differently. I decided to opt for the casual, straightforward approach.

I pulled myself up onto the washing machine. “So I guess we should stay here till the clothes are done, then we can hit the supermarket while they’re in the dryer.” Fulton, you moron, is that the best you can do?

“Okay.” He hopped up onto the machine beside me.

“Look, I know you’re upset about Aaron and stuff. You want to talk about it or…” I said, hoping I walked the line between caring and casual.

“Nah, I’m cool, I just…”

I waited for him to continue. I knew he would, for while you wouldn’t know it from looking at him, Portman’s a very open, honest guy, quite different from me that way. He’s a terrible liar; he sort of wears his heart on his sleeve, and while it kind of freaks me out because I don’t understand it, it’s pretty damn cute as well. It’s one of his most endearing qualities that for all his size and bravado, Portman doesn’t know how to hide the good inside of him.

“Why does she have to live with that asshole? Why does she always need to be screwing some pig?” He slammed his fist down on the washing machine, leaving a slight dent in the metal. “I just wish she wasn’t so… you know.”

I nodded. “I know.”

“The way she’s always coming onto you… What were you doing in her room, anyways?”

“Um, she, uh, needed help getting on her dress.”

He grinned bitterly. “Yeah, right. Sorry about that, man.” I hated seeing him so upset, I just wished there were something I could do.

“Hey, it’s not your fault.”

“Oh, this is stupid. Let’s just forget about her. Aaron too. To hell with them.”

I grinned. That was another thing I loved about Portman, and something we shared. An unwillingness in his case, and an inability in mine, to dwell on life’s less pleasant aspects. I remembered the contents of my pocket.

“Want some help getting them out of your mind?”

“Naturally. Do you have something to aid me in my endeavour?”

I showed him the pills I’d taken earlier. “Amphetamines. Courtesy of my mother, the walking pharmacy. If these don’t take your mind off your troubles, nothing will.”

Portman grinned, and popped one of the pills in his mouth while I downed the other one.

“You know, he said, we’re like a psychiatrist’s worst nightmare.”

“Yeah, but what do they know? I mean, people don’t all work the same way; therapy doesn’t make everyone feel better. I’m not secretly traumatised or repressed or anything, I just think life’s too short to be unhappy all the time, and I’m not averse to giving happiness a jump start when things aren’t going well.”

“Yeah, me too. Who needs angst? I’d rather have fun.”

“Besides, you know I’m like, always here for you if you need to talk, right?” I said awkwardly.

“Sure I do, you big suck. I’d say the same, but I know that’s the last thing you want.”

“You know me too well.”

We looked at each other, and all of a sudden I realised I could read Portman’s mind, and not in the traditional sense, either. Words were literally coming out of his head like they’d slipped off the pages of a book or something. ‘I want your body’ floated slowly toward me. I reached up to see if I could touch the words, but they kept dancing just out of reach. I tried to send a ‘come and take it’ thought to Portman but what came out instead was ‘King Tutenkhamen rides a crippled antelope.’ Strange. I could hear a voice in the background, but it was unimportant. What mattered was this newfound method of communication. Portman was staring intently at my forehead, and ‘you have yoghurt in your socks,’ drifted out of his left ear.

A hand grabbed my shoulder, making the thought-words disappear and bringing me back to reality with an almost painful lurch.

“You boys deaf or something? I said don’t sit on the machines! Christ!”

It was the owner of the laundromat, a middle-aged man with a bulging stomach protruding from under his sweat-stained wife beater, his thin brown hair parted in a wispy comb-over. I got down and he walked away, muttering to himself about young punks. Portman was still staring hard at my forehead, so I shook he arm gently. He jumped about a mile, then his eyes seemed to register and he smiled.

“Woah,” we said simultaneously.

We spent the next ten or fifteen minutes playing pinball, the perfect game for our altered states, as the lights, noises and colours were simply dazzling. Now that we were aware that the drugs had taken hold, we were more in control, but it was still a hell of a ride. I found out later that Portman had thought I was turning into a demon. My face had gone red and my eyes had turned black. He had been staring at a pair of horns growing from my forehead when the laundromat owner interrupted us.

Portman kicked my ass in every pinball game, just as he always did with things like that. He has extraordinarily nimble fingers. After that we moved the wet clothes into the dryers and set off for the grocery store.

Everything seemed so bright and colourful, we were trying to look everywhere at once. Inside the store we had the time of our lives, tripping out over the endless selection of products. Portman juggled apples, and I put a pineapple on my head and danced a little jig. We raced up and down the aisles with the shopping cart, sneaked mouthfuls of whipped cream from those spray cans, and stole a couple of bottles of nail polish because the colours were so pretty.

After that we went to the liquor store where I bought up the wine, then we picked up the laundry and pushed everything back to Portman’s in the shopping cart to drop it off before retiring to the vacant lot nearby. All this seemed to take no time at all. We sat down on the curb and put blue and green and purple nail polish on each other, but I was really bad at it. I got the stuff all over Portman’s cuticles, and he laughed at me, though secretly I thought it was funnier that he was really good at it. We sat there awhile while it dried. The colours were unlike anything I had ever seen.

“Jesus, Fult, does your mom take this stuff a lot?”

“Yeah, this and a lot of other shit.”

“Man, where does she get it all?”

“Some of it, like tranquilizers and diet pills, she gets from doctors, but the rest she gets from this guy who deals out of his apartment on Oak street. I think these are from him, but she’s got prescription amphies too.”

“What do diet pills do for you?”

“They’re uppers, legal meth.”

“Woah. Hey, you wanna go play with the shopping cart?”

“Hell, yeah!”

So that’s what we did for the next little while. We took turns pushing each other around, running as fast as we could, then letting go, so the other person went sailing, eventually slamming into the brick wall at the far end of the lot. You had to hold on tight so you didn’t go flying out. It was a lot of fun, the sort of fun that makes you wonder what the hell you were thinking the next morning. My favourite kind.

[nextpage title=”of street hockey and greenhouses”]

of street hockey and greenhouses

After the pills had worn off, we bummed around for awhile until we came across a group of kids playing street hockey. We knew them from around the neighbourhood and they asked us to come and join them.

This was what hockey was supposed to be like! Fast and hard but always fun, with tons of contact. Slamming and being slammed over and over. I loved the rough, informal aspect of it, a nice break from the strict refereeing and competitiveness of the school games. No penalty box here. Fulton and I had grown up playing this type of game, though because we used to live on opposite sides of the East End, we’d never run into each other before. Until he joined the Ducks, Fulton had never played any other kind of hockey, never even set foot on an ice rink before. None of the kids here had Rollerblades, just sneakers, so he’d never had a chance to learn how to skate. Me, I’d never had the chance either, till I was about ten and this coach spotted me playing. His team needed muscle, and I fit the bill. After a couple of weeks of lessons, he gave me some skates his kid had outgrown and told me to smash anything and everything I could reach. And I did.

It felt like ages since I’d had a good game of street hockey, and it got me all pumped for our Tuesday game against Windsor Academy. They had some real big guys on the team, and I knew Fulton was psyched for it too. We were going to have our hands full keeping them off Banks and the others, and this was good practice, I thought as some kid slammed me into the boards and stole the puck. Fulton was waiting for him, however; body met body and the kid went down, Fulton passed the puck back to me and I fired it in.

“Man, you guys are hot!” the kid Fulton had downed said to us, not angry in the slightest. “Haven’t seen you two around much since you kicked ass in the Goodwill Games. Thought you might’ve gone soft, but you’re as tough as ever. And Fult, your slapshot’s even more wicked than before! Where you been at, anyways?”

“Our team got scholarships to this fancy ass boarding school,” I said.

“No shit! What’s it like?”

“Bunch of preppy kids, too many rules and teachers who actually notice if you skip class, but it’s cool not having to live at home. And we get to play a lot of hockey.”

“I’ll bet,” he grinned. “Alright, you two against us three. Next goal wins it.”

We won it.

“Man, that was fun!” Fulton was practically skipping as we walked along, and he kept pounding on my shoulder. “When we get back to Eton, we gotta have more Ducks on Ducks games.”

“Totally!” I said, unable to resist hopping up and down in excitement. “We got practice on Sunday, right? We’ll set up a game for Monday, before we play Windsor.”

“Rock on! We can show the Ducks that between-the-legs move that kid was doing! Betcha Adam’d love it!”

“Yeah! Are we gonna wipe the ice with Windsor or what?”

“YEAH!!!” Fulton screamed. We did a chest butt, and then he grabbed my head and slammed it against his. I guess he forgot we weren’t wearing helmets, cause it damn near gave both of us concussions. After we’d recovered, we kept walking, now rather subdued by our aching heads.

“So where to, bro?” I asked. “We still got plenty of time to kill.”

“You want to hit Johnny’s?”

“Oh shit yeah, we promised we would next time we came back!”

Johnny Sheffield was a guy my mother used to go out with when I was about eleven. It didn’t last very long, she was 28 and he was 21, but he was by far my favourite of her boyfriends. He ran a greenhouse up on 32nd street where he grew all sorts of shit, including a back room full of weed. He gave me my first taste, and taught me how to care for the plants, both the bud and the other stuff. I really took to it, and I would sometimes look after the place for him when he wasn’t there. When I met Fulton, one of the first things I did was introduce him to Johnny. Now the two of us were the official greenhouse caretakers whenever he was away, and for this Johnny kept us in as much weed as we liked.

The greenhouse was in the warehouse district not far from where we lived, but off the main road. We used our keys to get in, and walked down the aisles of plants and flowers till we got to the back rooms, which you couldn’t see into from outside. Johnny grew his weed in one of them, and the others comprised the spacious little suite in which he lived.

We had keys to get in, but we knocked on the door anyway, and Johnny greeted us with a smile. He was a tall, lean Hawaiian guy with thick black hair like Fulton’s; he reminded me of a young Keanu Reeves. He was perpetually cheery and perpetually stoned; he had the whole surfer dude thing going on, bare feet, Billabong shirts, seashell necklaces and the like.

“Ah, the prodigal sons return! Just the guys I wanted to see, come on in! Man, you kids are sweaty as hell! What’d you do, run here?”

I told him about the game and he laughed. “I should have known. Guess you two don’t get enough of hockey at school, huh? You want to take a shower, or what?”

We both nodded gratefully, and Fulton headed for the bathroom while Johnny and I went into the living room, which was decorated in the most delirious amalgam of colours and styles this side of a Baz Lurhmann movie. The floor was covered in thick red shag carpeting, and the walls and ceiling were every colour of the rainbow. Johnny was a real good artist, and he had painted stuff all over the place. One wall was this awesome mural of a Hawaiian island, crystal clear water teaming with fish and other creatures, trees and a volcano in the distance, plus he had a hypno-wheel beside it, and when you looked at it and then the mural, the clouds and water and animals all seemed to be moving. It was a stoner’s dream come true.

The place was filled with toys of every kind, yoyos and Koosh balls and things that light up and make noises and glow in the dark. There were couches circling the room, with a large open space in the middle where you could lie around on cushions or bean bag chairs and have a séance or do yoga or something. Between me and Johnny there was a glass-topped coffee table, and under the glass were the most beautiful rocks and seashells you had ever seen; Johnny had brought them back from Hawaii of course; I have got to go there some day.

There was art all over the place, but a lot of it wasn’t Johnny’s; there was a ton of paintings, some originals, like on canvas and stuff, some of them prints or posters. There was a lot of Slavador Dali, of course, plus a lot of other whacked-out shit that Fulton told me is something called dadaism. Fulton and I have sworn that when we graduate, we’ll move out together, and that our living room will look a lot like this. I love this place, there’s nothing but happiness and goodwill flowing through it like rain.

After Fulton and I had showered, we both sunk into a couple of bean bag chairs while Johnny sat down on the zebra-print love seat in front of the rock table. I noticed there were several large boxes on the other side of the room, and that Johnny’s tv was gone.

Johnny nodded toward the boxes. “I finally decided to get my shit together and make the switch to DVD, and then I figured I might as well go all the way. Got a whole home entertainment system. Huge ass flat-screen telly with some sort of jazzed up DVD and stereo equipment. Unfortunately, I haven’t a clue how to install it all, and I was hoping you boys might be of some assistance in that department.”

Fulton leaned forward in his seat, his eyes were glowing and I could tell he was dying to get his hands on that much technology. He stood up and started to cross the room but Johnny waved him back down.

“In a minute, in a minute, don’t want to put you boys to work as soon as you get here. We got plenty of time.” Fulton sat back down, but he kept shooting longing glances in the direction of the boxes. “So now, what have you kids been up to? How’re they treating you at that school?”

“Not too bad,” I said, looking around, still glad to be back. “We’re not exactly in the teachers’ good books, but we’ve managed to avoid suspensions so far this year.”

“Yeah, I bet you two don’t fit in too well with their mission statement. How’s hockey?”

“Really good, we’ve won 5 and tied one, and that should have been a win, but this stupid ref… Anyway, we got a game on Tuesday that promises a lot of Bash Brother action, so we’re really looking forward to that.”

“So you can sandwich some poor kid, maybe crack his skull open if you’re lucky?” Johnny was a real pacifist, hard-core vegetarian, anti-war, anti-violence and all that. He was always saying he wished hockey were less ‘barbaric.’”

“Maybe,” Fulton said with a grin.

“Look, Johnny, you know we don’t go pounding on little kids or anything, right? I mean, we keep our team safe, and we only hurt the big guys, or the ones who go after our players.”

He grinned and put his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Peace, man, peace. I don’t think you’re a couple of blood-crazed psychopaths or anything. In fact, for a couple of hockey goons, you’re positively gentle.” He ducked as Fulton whipped a cushion at his head. “So what else is new?”

We talked for awhile, Johnny filling us in on what was new around here, Fulton and I telling him stories about our time at Eton, many of which ended in penalties, detentions, or game misconducts.

“So how’re the crops this year?” Fulton asked.

“Oh, great, it’s been an awesome year for the bud, the new seedlings are about 70% male, so I should get maximum yield this summer, Plus I just picked up some killer new tropical plants I’ll show you later. Oh shit, that reminds me, I’m heading back to Hawaii this summer, you guys gonna be around to look after things?”

“Of course, where else would we be?”

“Great. Stay here as much as you like, you’ll be so used to being on your own, you probably won’t want to spend two months with your parents. Speaking of which, how’s your mom, Dean? She still with that Aaron guy?”

I nodded. “She’s fine.”

Johnny stared at me for a moment, then looked as if he were going to say something else, but Fulton piped up, “So why don’t I try and set this shit up for you, Johnny?”

Johnny nodded. “Sure, we can try one of my new DVD’s. Unless you guys have to be home soon or anything?” We shook our heads. Did we ever?

We unloaded the boxes together, and Johnny started leafing through one of the thick instruction manuals. “Christ, this shit is intense. Okay, we have to find wire A–”

“Relax, man,” I chuckled, plopping back into my bean bag chair. “It’s under control. Fulton Reed has never used an instruction manual in his life.”

Johnny and I sat back and watched as Fulton zipped back and forth between the various machines, installing wires, screwing screws and pushing buttons. Within 15 minutes, he had everything set up. We placed hung the tv from the wall and placed the speakers around the room, then Fulton had to take another 15 minutes to show Johnny how to use it all. He tried to explain about recording onto DVD’s, but that was too much.

“Show me some other time, my brain’s still trying to absorb all that other stuff you told me. All this from the kid who nearly failed the ninth grade.”

I remembered that. Last year, Fulton and I hadn’t been doing so well in school. In fact, we’d pretty much been failing everything. The Dean called our parents in to talk about it, and Johnny had pretended to be Fulton’s dad. The school had Johnny’s number on file instead of Fulton’s, and good thing too. His mom was way too out of it to come to a meeting, and his father would have killed him. Johnny acted real upset about it, started yelling at Fulton and everything. It would have been real funny if the Dean hadn’t threatened to kick us out if we didn’t pass the term. After that, Fulton tried to teach me enough to help me pass, and when he couldn’t he helped me cheat. We finished the year with a C average, and this year we kept up our healthy regime of tutoring and cheating. No way were we gonna lose hockey.

“Alright, now that I know how to use the channel changer, let’s have some fun! Portman, you wanna grab old Betsy?”

I brought the treasured object out of her home in the hall closet and set her down in front of Johnny. Betsy was a water bong, but not just any water bong. She was made out of one of those 5-gallon jugs, the kind you use for water coolers. Fulton and I had made it, and given it to Johnny for his birthday a year and a half ago. The bowl led through a hole in the base, and you had to fill the jug with smoke, and breathe it all in. It required skill to use properly, and some people never got the hang of it, but for those who did, it was pretty great, as long as you didn’t use it that often, or you’d kill your lungs. It was like smoking an entire joint at once, one hit and you were sailing through the stratosphere.

Johnny had just finished filling the bowl when Fulton’s stomach let out a loud rumble. He blushed and murmured an apology, but Johnny turned to face us, concerned. “What have you kids eaten today?”

I thought about it, and realised we hadn’t had a thing all day. “Nothing, I guess.”

Johnny leaped up from the couch. “Jesus Christ, why didn’t you say so?” He headed to the kitchen and returned a few minutes later laden down with food of every kind. He set it all down on the table and stood there looking at us with his hands on his hips. “Now make sure you eat some fruit and cheese and stuff, too. Shit, you kids must be starving!”

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but when I saw all that food, my stomach started to growl as well, and I realised I was famished. Fulton and I tucked into the feast gratefully, while Johnny sat back and watched us.

“Aren’t you going to have some?” Fulton asked, his mouth full of cheese – Johnny always had the best crumbly white cheddar – while he reached for another mandarin orange.

Johnny shook his head. “I’m fine, I’ll probably join you in a bit, though. Shit, Dean, have they stopped feeding you at your place too?”

Johnny was real protective of Fulton and me, he’d always tell us to come and crash at his place whenever we wanted to, and he made sure he always had plenty of food, even when he was going away. He knew Fulton never got anything to eat at his place, and it bugged him something awful.

“Nah, we just haven’t been home all day,” I said as I made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich. When Fulton saw it his eyes went wide. I laughed, handed it to him, and started to make another for myself.

“Alright, but make sure you take some food with you when you go, even if you’re staying at Portman’s tonight. You guys are too big to go that long without food, it’s not healthy.”

We just nodded, both of our mouths too sticky with peanut butter to speak. After we’d stuffed ourselves, we each hit the water bong and sat around watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, alternately killing ourselves with laughter and tripping out during the hallucination scenes. The picture was so big and clear, we all got convinced we were watching a live performance, which made it even cooler.

When the movie was done we hung around, playing with Johnny’s toys and tripping on his Dali art. I got one of those sticky arms caught in Fulton’s hair, and Johnny got a gobstopper stuck in his throat and couldn’t breathe until Fulton squeezed his stomach and it went flying across the room and landed in the tropical fish tank. Johnny showed us his new plants, and we fed and watered them all, and pruned the old leaves. It was past one when we finally headed home, our pockets full of weed and fruit, and with dazed, slightly dopey smiles on our faces.

[nextpage title=”of toxic codependency and final payoffs”]

of toxic codependency and final payoffs

“You fucking slut! You think I don’t know what you do? I’m not blind, I see the way you are with other guys, like that kid who was over here today! You fucking him too?”

“How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not sleeping with that guy from work and I’m certainly not fucking Dean’s friends!”

I had walked in on a serious fight between Aaron and my mom. They were in the middle of the living room screaming at each other. There were broken dishes in the kitchen, and I saw the empty bottle of wine on the table, so I figured the fight was reaching the tail end by now, and I retreated to my room to wait it out. Normally it goes alcohol, yelling, break stuff, more yelling, then tears, apologies, and a long night of make-up sex. Bleg.

I was lying on my bed with the door closed, but it sounded as if they were standing right beside me. The walls were pretty thin in this place, and I was sure the neighbours could hear everything. If they didn’t wrap it up pretty soon the police would probably show. At the moment, however, they were still going strong.

“You expect me to believe that? I know all about you, you’ll fuck anything with a dick!”

“I guess that rules you out then! Maybe I *should* start seeing other guys, get myself a real man, not some chicken-shit little momma’s boy who can’t even get it up!”

There was a clapping sound, a loud thump, and then silence. No, not silence, I could hear my mother crying. I ran into the living room and saw her lying on the floor, holding her head and sobbing, while Aaron stood over her, still looking angry, but now unsure as well.

I exploded. “Pansy-ass motherfucker!” I ran full out at Aaron, jumped on him and knocked him to the ground. He hit me hard in the temple, and the left side of my face exploded with pain, stunning me, but not for long. I jumped on him again, and started whaling on him. He didn’t just sit back and take it, however, and we rolled around on the floor together while my mother screamed at us to stop. I barely heard her. Stop? I couldn’t stop. I was going to kill him. Nobody touches my mother.

It didn’t take long for me to get the upper hand. Aaron was taller than me, but he was out of shape, too many days spent lounging around watching Vikings games. Besides, I was a Bash Brother. Fighting was my specialty. I had him pinned to the ground now, and was about to finish him off when he called out, “Stop! I give up!” and put his hands over his face. I wasn’t ready to quit, but I paused at his words and my mother grabbed me around the waist and tried to haul me up.

“Leave him alone, Dean, you’re hurting him!”

I shrugged off her arms and stood up on my own, staring at her in disbelief. “I hurt him? Are you serious? The lousy son-of-a-bitch hit you!”

“I’m alright! Besides, he didn’t mean it, he was just mad! Aaron, Aaron honey, are you okay?” She knelt down beside him, putting her hand on his shoulder, but he pushed her away, heaved himself to his feet, and stood there, swaying slightly. His face was all mashed up and bloody and I couldn’t help myself from smiling. Did I do that? He spun on his heel and half walked, half stumbled into the bedroom. My mother followed him in and I could hear her sobbing and pleading with him to stay. I wondered why, I mean normally my mom’s the one to send her boyfriends packing, and she had never seemed particularly attached to this one.

They both emerged a few minutes later, Aaron carrying a battered old leather suitcase and my mother still crying, tugging on his arm as he went. He paused at the doorway and turned to face me.

“You like your slut mother so much, you can keep her. I’ve had it.” And he left without another word.

My mom and I just stood there for a minute, not saying anything. Her eyes were red and puffy, her cheeks streaked with tears, one still red where Aaron had hit her, and as she looked at me, her face contorted with rage. She threw herself at me and started swinging her arms wildly, hitting me on the head, back, shoulders, anywhere she could reach.

“You little bastard! I hate you! It’s your fault!”

I grabbed her arms and pulled her close to me. “Forget about him mom, he’s an asshole. You can do way better.”

But it seemed she didn’t want better, because she shrieked loudly and started crying again, pounding on my chest with her fists. “Aaron was right about you! You just want to keep us apart! I never wanted you anyways! I hate you! Get out!”

Don’t listen to her Portman, she doesn’t know what she’s saying, she’s just upset. “It’ll be alright, mom.”

“No, it won’t! It’ll never be alright again! Get out! Get out! Get out!” With each exclamation she pushed me hard in the chest until I was up against the door. She stood there, crying and glaring at me, and said again, quietly, “Get out.”

So I did, but not before I slammed my fist through the wall beside the door. The pain made me smile, and so did the frightened look in her eyes as I left.

I ran down the street towards Fulton’s. When I got there I found him curled up on his bed, facing the wall. It turned out it had been family fun night at his place as well. His father had flipped because their car had broken down, and he hadn’t been able to find Fulton all day to fix it. Judging by his slow, painful movements and the beginnings of a big bruise on his cheek, his dad had knocked him around a bit as punishment. Bastard.

We were sitting on his bed, and Fulton had taken out his old battered First Aid kit and was inspecting my hand.

“Christ Portman, what’d you do, put your fist through a wall?”

He laughed when I nodded, then took out some cotton balls and a bottle of alcohol. “I can’t believe I just jumped on him like that. It was so – OW!” I jerked my hand away and glared at Fulton. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“It hurts, I know, but I’ve got to clean them up.” I reluctantly gave him my hand again, and tried not to pull away while he dabbed at my knuckles with alcohol.

“I’m not surprised in the least,” he continued softly, and it took me a moment to realise what he was talking about. “That guy was such a prick, I knew it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Besides, didn’t it feel good to kick his ass?”

I grinned. “Yeah, it really did, and he was a grown-up, too! I’m not sure it was worth it, though. My mom hates me now.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’re going back to Eton tomorrow, and you won’t see her again till Christmas break. By then she’ll have a new guy and she’ll have forgotten all about it. She lives in the present, your mom.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“I know I’m right,” he smiled, gently taking my chin in his hand and looking closely at my face. “Damn, if you won, I’d hate to see what Aaron looks like,” he said as he started cleaning a cut above my eyebrow.

“He won’t be able to see out of one eye for a week, and I think I knocked a couple teeth loose. Ow!”

“Sorry. Good for you, you do a Bash Brother proud. Not get ready…” He started dabbing at my lip. It hurt like hell and my eyes wouldn’t stop watering, but I didn’t say anything.

“You’re lucky you don’t need any stitches. Okay, that about does it, now I just have to wrap up your hand.” He put gauze on my knuckles and fingers and then wrapped them in white medical tape, so I looked like a boxer. When he was through he sat back and looked me over. “There, I’m done,” he said.

Then why was he still holding my hand?

“Well you wouldn’t know anything about it, faggot. You’ve never competed in your life.”

“Oh, I know, and I feel all empty inside because of it. I have such a deep admiration for guys who roll around on the floor with other guys.”

“Ah, you’d never miss it. You don’t have any goals.”

“Oh, but I do. I want to be just like you. I figure all I need’s a lobotomy and some tights.”

“You wear tights?”

“No, I don’t wear tights, I wear the required uniform!”


“Shut up!”

“See, Portman,” Fulton laughed as he tossed a goldfish cracker into the air and I caught it in my mouth. “John Hughes’ movies, particularly The Breakfast Club, defined a generation. No other film before or since has so perfectly captured the ‘80’s teen mindset.”

“Yeah, you’re so right. This movie is brilliant, man.”

We were sitting around in Fulton’s basement, doing what we do best, nothing. Were we just a couple of worthless layabouts? Maybe, but what should we be doing instead? Going out on dates with those stuck-up Eton girls? Playing the whole make-up, break-up, teen drama game? Hanging out at the mall, doing homework and behaving ourselves so we could get into a good college? Doing just what all the other kids were doing until we grew up to do just what all the other adults were doing? Thanks, but no thanks. I took another hit from the psychedelic, blown-glass pipe I’d given Fulton for Christmas last year and passed it to him.

“Hey Fult, doesn’t that jock kid look just like Coach Bombay?” I asked as I pointed towards the tv.

“Yeah, totally. Freaky isn’t it? They could be twins.”

“Would you like to be a twin?”

“Nah, you wouldn’t have your own identity.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t like it either, except that you could mess with people’s heads, play jokes and stuff.”

“Remember when we sent all that chinese food to that teacher’s house?”

“And we hid behind his tree, and he flipped out on the delivery boy? That guy was such an asshole. He looked like a vampire, his wife too.”

“Yeah, he had that white skin, red lips and black hair.”

“I bet they were vampires. They probably had vampire kids and everything,” I said, tossing a goldfish into the air.

“Impossible,” said Fulton, as the cracker hit him in the forehead and bounced off. “Vampires can’t have sex.”

“What are you talking about? Of course they can!”

“Nope, a female vampire could screw a human, but a male vampire couldn’t have sex with anyone.”

“Why not?” I loved these stoned-out discussions. Nothing but weird topics and a lot of non-sequiturs.

“Simple, he can’t get it up.”

I choked on the smoke I was holding in at the time, and a laughing and coughing fit ensued. Fulton rubbed my back until it passed, then continued, “Well, vampires are dead, right?” I nodded. “They don’t breathe, their hearts don’t beat, they don’t have blood pumping through their veins.”


“Well, how do you get an erection? Your heart pumps blood into your dick, and then the vessels close up so it can’t leave, and you get hard. Vampires can’t get hard.”

“I don’t know what’s more disturbing, that you’ve obviously thought about this before, or that what you’re saying is making complete sense to me. We must both be insane.”

“I’ve always thought it was better to be half crazy than half alive.”

What happened next, I didn’t plan. I didn’t even know what I was doing until I had done it. I guess what he said just rang really true to me. I was in love with him, and I was willing to risk everything for a shot at supreme happiness. I reached out, took his hand in mine, and kissed it. “Stop time,” I whispered.

“What?” his voice sounded all funny and husky, like he was choking or something.

“I don’t want to leave this moment. I don’t want anything else but for us to stay like this forever.”

Fulton looked at me for a long time without saying anything, without smiling. I dropped his hand and looked away. “I’m sorry man, I didn’t mean to–”

“Would you stop dicking around and just kiss me already?”

This can’t be happening, no way. I felt as if I would shatter into a million pieces if I moved so much as an inch. I wrapped my arms around my chest to keep myself from falling apart. Just breathe Portman, in and out. Finally, I dropped my arms and looked up at him. He was smiling and the next thing I knew I was kissing him, kissing him hard and deep, our tongues finding each other and moving together like two dancers in the dark.

His mouth was alive. I felt as if I had just swallowed a 1000-volt wire. Surges of electricity and adrenaline were racing through me, every hair on my body was standing on end. I felt transported, like we had left our world and were floating through another dimension, one where it was possible to feel this good and not explode. Finally we separated.

“God, you’re so beautiful,” he said as he stroked my cheek, his eyes wide and very bright. “I’m scared that if I close my eyes, you’ll be gone before I open them again. Maybe I’m dead, I mean, this can’t be real. Life isn’t like this.”

I nodded. “I know, I’m scared too. It just seems too good to be true. I feel like any moment something’s going to send me crashing back down to earth.” I took off my shirt and put his hand against my chest. “Everything you’re feeling right now, just know that I’m feeling it too. I’m not going anywhere. I wish I could say it’ll be perfect, that I’ll never hurt you and you’ll never hurt me, but I can’t, because…”

“Because screws fall out all the time. The world’s an imperfect place.”


“But I’m not looking for perfect. I’m just looking for you.”

It was all too much. I reached out to take off his shirt, but he pulled away. He stopped, stared at me for a moment, and took if off himself, his eyes never leaving mine. I wanted to cry when I saw him. There were angry red welts all down his back and across his shoulders, and several of what looked like cigarette burns on his ribcage and arms, one of them fresh. I touched his shoulder gently, and he didn’t pull away this time.

“What did he–” I started, but couldn’t finish. There was a lump in my throat the size of a golf ball.

“A belt. It’s what he always uses.”

“I’ll kill him.”

“Don’t bother, he’s not worth it.”

“Are you alright?”

“Of course, stupid, and with Johnny’s chronic I can hardly feel a thing. Hell, you look worse than I do.”


He put a finger to my lips, and smiled. “No, no buts. Don’t you get it? It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters if I have you. Everything that’s wrong with my life, you make right. What more could I ask for?”

And with that, he lay back on the little bed and looked up at me with what just might have been love in his eyes. “Now come here.” I took a deep breath, and got down on top of him. Fulton was right, what more could we ask for?

THE END (for now…)
Notes: Well guys, that about wraps up my first fanfiction. I must say I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you all for your kind reviews, especially Cake Eater, who has been kind enough to review every chapter thus far. I already have several ideas for a sequel, or more of a continuation, really. Now that Fulton and Portman have consummated their relationship, what’s next? Will they tell Charlie and Adam and the others? Will Fulton’s closed-off nature become a problem? Find out in part two of my story, The Bash Brothers in Love, coming soon to a fanfic site near you. Now this is where I need the advice of my readers and veteran computer and fanfic aficionados. When should I start the second part? Immediately, or should I wait, spread it out a bit and give more people a chance to read this, or catch up on the new chapters? I write often, I know, and it’s just because once I start writing, I have a hard time stopping, and whenever I get an idea, I want to put it down on paper. If you think I should wait, for how long? A few weeks, a few months? I really have no idea, so I’d appreciate any input. I hope you all enjoyed my little story. Thanks for taking the time to read it. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Nebula for her fabulous Elden Henson site, and for linking the Queertet and giving them the praise they deserve. Without them I never would have known that such a phenomenon as fanfiction even existed. This story is dedicated to Elden Henson, the real Fulton Reed, without whose boundless talents this world would be an infinitely more dreary place.