~    R A I N    ~

 

By

 

Cole Parker

 

 

 

 

Foreword Note:

 

This is a series of vignettes.  Each will involve rain.  Other than rain, there is nothing wedding these stories to each other.  They take place separately from each other, occurring at different times and locations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  John

 

 

John was in a sour mood.  His English teacher, Mr. Snyder, had just read him the riot act for not making a great enough effort on his weekly paper.  “You’ll have to work harder if you want a decent grade from me,” he’d said, staring hard enough at John so the boy had had to lower his eyes. “You can’t just wait till the last moment, throw a few words on a piece of paper and hand it in.”

 

That sort of behavior wouldn’t cut it for him any longer, Mr. Snyder had continued, telling John he was in middle school now and it was time to grow up.  “You might have scraped by in elementary school like that,” he’d said, slapping at the paper he held wrinkled up in his large hand, “but in the 7th grade it’s high time you actually put some thought and effort into your schoolwork, especially in this class.”  It had taken Mr. Snyder the best part of fifteen minutes to deliver his diatribe.

 

Not only had John been chewed out royally, but it had happened after school, and now he had to walk home alone, the other kids all having left some time ago.  To top it off, by the looks of the sky, it was going to rain.  He started walking a little faster.  The park was just up ahead, and he could cut across that, saving some time.

 

The rain began falling just as he entered the park. It was a light sprinkle at first, and John pulled up the collar of his jacket to keep his neck dry.  If it doesn’t get harder than this, he thought, it won’t be too bad.

 

He saw two older kids playing catch as he walked farther into the park.  They continued playing, but looked up at the sky between catches.  A throw from one flew over the head of the other, and the ball rolled toward John, who stopped walking, picked it up and tossed it back to the boy now running toward him.  “Thanks,” the boy shouted, and wiped some of the moisture off the ball.

 

And that was when the skies opened up.  What had been a gentle shower became a downpour.  John was suddenly drenched.  The two boys playing catch were, too.  Their clothes were stuck to their bodies, their mitts dripping.

 

All three boys looked up, but they couldn’t stay that way as their eyes were immediately flooded.

 

John took two more steps, then stopped.  He couldn’t see well enough to continue.  He looked for shelter, but what was the point?  He couldn’t be any wetter.  While he was thinking about this, he also realized the rain was hard, but it wasn’t cold.  He didn’t feel chilled at all.  Just wet.  Very, very wet.

 

He turned his face upward again, with his eyes closed this time, and just let the rain wash over it.  And over him.  It felt good.  It felt fantastic.  He was wet, but so was everything around him. He felt as if he was at one with nature.

 

And perhaps it was that thought that made him do what he did next.  It was an almost unconscious action, completely spur of the moment.  He took off his jacket, which was a sodden mess and not keeping him dry at all, but simply weighing him down.  His shirt underneath it was just as wet as the jacket, and he peeled that off, too.  The rain against his bare chest was warm and felt really good, invigorating and somehow nurturing.

 

After standing in the rain for a minute, glorifying in the moment, bare to the waist, a need arose from inside him, and without questioning it, he reached for his belt.  In seconds, he had it unfastened, then his pants were unbuttoned and his zipper pulled down, and his pants were down around his ankles.  He toed off his sneakers, tugged off his socks, and then, with only a moment’s hesitation, his boxers followed.

 

He was naked in the rain.  He didn’t give it much thought, but as he couldn’t see more than fifty feet in any direction, he wasn’t concerned about being seen.  The only thing he was conscious of was the feel of the rain on his body, all of his body.

 

He turned his face up to the sky again, eyes shut, and without thought began to slowly turn in a circle, letting the water wash over him, cascading over every part of his body.  He lifted his arms straight out from his sides as he slowly spun, and with his head tilted back, let out a roar.  He heard a shout, and stopped.  Lowering his arms, opening his eyes, he saw the two guys who’d been playing catch.  They were watching him, and one had shouted to the other to come closer.  John looked at them, they looked at him, and suddenly, one began taking his shirt off.  The other saw that, and grinned, and followed suit.

 

Then there were three naked boys, all with their eyes closed, faces upwards, turning in the rain.  John stopped turning and began to dance, lifting his knees high and dropping his feet down onto the wet grass, waving his arms, dancing a dance of joy and youth.  The other two quickly began doing the same, each moving to his own rhythm, a rhythm each felt coming from within.

 

How long they would have danced, reveling in nature’s shower and their own release of inhibition, it will never be known, because a minute later, the rain abated, and as sudden showers often do, this one stopped even more abruptly than it had begun. 

 

Three boys, three naked boys, stopped and looked at each other.  John was the first to put his hands over himself, and to blush.  Then the other two did exactly the same thing. All three quickly found their clothes and turned their backs to each other as they tried to put them on again.  The clothes couldn’t have been wetter if they’d just been pulled from a washtub.  John finally had to wring out his pants to get his legs into them, and it was still a struggle.  His shirt felt clammy and he shuddered as he pulled it over his wet torso.

 

He didn’t even try with his socks.  He slipped his wet feet into his sodden shoes, awkwardly tied the sopping shoestrings, then stood up and turned around.  The other two boys were just coming upright, too.  The three looked at each other, John gave them a small, embarrassed smile, and the other boys returned it.  As they stood, looking at each other, the embarrassment seemed to leave them and the shy smile turned into a triumphant grin.  John had the inchoate feeling that the three of them had had a moment together that was more than just enjoyment of the rain.  It felt as if a bit of their humanity, of whatever it was that made them boys, had been shared.  John waved, the other two boys waved back, and then John headed for home.

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Trey

 

 

Trey trudged along, the gloomy day matching his mood.  He was walking just to be walking, going nowhere other than away from where he’d just been, going nowhere at all in particular.

 

Not that walking really helped.  The gloom in the sky was matched by the gloom in his soul, an internal gloom that nothing seemed able to relieve.  He knew what he needed to do, but doing it, having the courage and resolve to do it, that was something else again. 

 

He had to tell his father.  There was this feeling inside him that he’d burst if he didn’t.  Trey was honest and straightforward if he was anything.  This wasn’t just an attitude; it was who he was.  He’d grown up that way, and he’d gotten his underpinnings from emulating his dad.  Yet for the past four years, he’d been keeping a secret from the man he most admired and most respected.

 

He had gay friends at school, straight ones, too, and they’d all cautioned him.  You’ve only another year at high school, they’d said.  Wait till you’re at college, they’d said.  It’s safer.

 

Maybe it was good advice.  But it didn’t feel right for him.  Trey didn’t like keeping secrets, not this kind, and every day that passed made him feel even guiltier that he couldn’t stand up like a man and be honest with his father, talk to him about what he’d been keeping to himself about himself.  Trey felt that, no matter how his dad might feel about what he had to tell him, his dad would know Trey hadn’t had the fortitude to tell him until now, and every passing hour made it worse.

 

Trey had been going to tell him.  Yesterday, he’d firmed up his resolve, even taken the first step.  His dad had been in his den, Trey in the kitchen.  He’d tightened his jaw, stood up and walked to the den, slowly but deliberately, his intentions clear in his head even if his heart was racing.

 

But as he’d approached the door, he’d heard his father talking on the phone.  Or perhaps shouting on the phone was a better descriptive.  “You tell that son of a bitch I don’t want any of his gay crap in my office!  Any more of it, and he’ll be looking for a new job!  You tell him that!”

 

Then the receiver had crashed down, and Trey had made a u-turn.  He never had made it into the den.

 

He’d slept fitfully that night and today had left the house soon after his father had.  His father had gone to work at his law office; Trey was just walking aimlessly.  Thinking and walking and not noticing that the sky was darkening with every step he took.

 

He didn’t really know what the phone conversation had been about.  He did know his father had strong views on things, stern views, too, but that ultimately he was a fair man.  Trey wouldn't admire him so if he wasn’t, wouldn’t so want the man’s approval.  If his dad would listen to someone else and not jump to conclusions, he’d certainly listen to his son, wouldn’t he?

 

But what if he didn’t?  What if he was homophobic?  Trey had lived with him for his entire 16 plus years but couldn’t remember even once that the subject of homosexuality had been mentioned in their house.  With all the current talk about gay rights, gay marriage, gay bashing, gay-orientation reprogramming, gays at proms and all the rest, somehow, the word ‘gay’ had never been spoken in his home.  Until yesterday.

 

Was there a reason it hadn’t been brought up?  Trey hadn’t said anything because if he had, his dad might have wondered why he’d brought it up, mightn’t he?  His dad hadn’t ever brought it up, leaving Trey to wonder why.  He could speculate on reasons, but most of them didn’t ease his fears. 

 

Why did Trey have to be gay anyway?  That was a question he’d never been able to answer.  Of course, neither had his gay friends.  They just were.  Like he just was.

 

He loved his dad.  And his dad loved him.  He knew that. He even knew his dad was proud of him.  But because he didn’t know how his dad felt about homosexuality, he had no clue about what he’d say when told he had a gay son.

 

He heard a honk and looked around.  He found he was downtown and had walked there only semi-aware of where he’d been going.  Maybe there’d been some unconscious motivation behind his aimless wandering, because, surprisingly, he was near his father’s office building.  Had he planned to walk here, walk in, and confront his father in his office, on the man’s own personal turf? 

 

That didn’t seem the best way to do this.  Still, he knew, even if the overheard phone call was a signal not to, he was going to tell him.  He was.  And soon.

 

It had started drizzling a few minutes ago, and Trey hadn’t really taken much notice.  Pulling his collar up and settling deeper into his jacket was his only reaction.  Now, however, the rain picked up, and began falling much harder.  Hard enough that Trey looked for cover.

 

He could have run into his dad’s office building, but he wasn’t ready for that yet.  He still had some thinking, some deciding, to do.  He knew for certain it would be soon.  And for certain that ‘soon’ meant ‘not quite yet’.

 

Instead of going inside, he ducked into the alley that ran alongside his father’s building.  There was a balcony attached to the adjacent building and Trey found some protection from the rain by standing under it.  He unzipped his hood from the lining of his jacket and pulled it up over his head and then made himself as small as he could to avoid the rain that was dripping from the edge of the balcony above.

 

He was huddling there when he heard a door open.  He turned his head slightly and was surprised to see his father step out of a side door from the building.  He wasn’t alone; another man stepped out with him.  Trey’s surprise turned to shock when his father took the other man in his arms and kissed him.  It wasn’t a peck on the cheek, either, but a full-blown, lips-to-lips kiss that lasted and lasted as Trey, dumbfounded, watched.

 

The kiss finally ended, and Trey’s father pulled the man tighter into a hug, touched his face briefly, caressingly, then released him.  His father was smiling as he stepped back into the building, and the other man, looking somewhat dazed, followed him.

 

Trey was feeling dazed, too.  But as he stood under the balcony, he began realizing what he’d seen and what it meant.  New thoughts about why his father hadn’t ever said anything to him remotely concerning the word gay ran through his head.  He also felt a rudimentary understanding within himself, something that made sense.  Perhaps his question of why he was gay had been answered.

 

Trey walked out from under the balcony and threw his hood off his head, letting it droop over the back of his jacket.  The rain washed over him, and he felt like it was washing away his fears, cleansing him of his anxieties.  He had a large smile on his face, and he felt a lightness, a purity in his soul that had long been absent.  His doleful trudge was replaced by a carefree amble.  He splashed in puddles like a six-year-old and laughed when a passing car splashed water on his legs.

 

Trey was eagerly looking forward to his father coming home that evening.

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Mickey

 

 

Mickey hadn’t a care in the world.  It was summer, and school was out.  Mickey hated school, but this was summer.  It was summer!  He kept telling himself that because every time he thought of it, it made him smile.  Mickey was good at smiling and did it a lot.

 

He was on a walk.  His mother didn’t like him wandering far all by himself, but he was eight and knew what he was doing.  He told her what she wanted to hear to keep her happy and then did what he wanted to do.

 

He’d walked across two empty fields to where the woods began, then through the woods to the fields on the other side.  There were horses here, kept in large, rail-fenced pastures.  Mickey liked to visit the horses.  There was one that trotted over to see him whenever he showed up for a visit and called to it.  Mickey always brought carrots when his mother had some in the refrigerator.

 

Today there weren’t any carrots, so the horse shook its head at Mickey after snuffling him.  Mickey was able to rub the side of its nose briefly.  But not for as long as he usually could.  The horse was eager to go back to grazing.  It gave him a reproachful glance as it trotted off.

 

It had been sunny when Mickey had set off, but by the time he was standing on the lowest fence rail and calling to what he thought of as his horse, clouds had obscured the sun. 

 

He was back in the woods when it began raining.  He could hear it, he could smell it, but the leafy canopy above him was thick enough that only a few drops got through.  When he came out on the other side, however, he could see it: sheets and sheets of rain falling in front of him like curtains.

 

He stepped out into it and within a minute was drenched.  “Yeeeaaaaa!” he shouted exuberantly, water streaming down his face, his hair plastered to his head, his smile a mile wide.

 

On the way across the empty field he had to cross a creek.  Usually it was mostly dry.  Now, there was water in it.  He stopped and watched it grow deeper.  Then he took a huge leap and landed right in the middle.  It only came up to above his ankles.  He jumped up and down and found he was kicking up mud.  Soon his shoes were covered in a rich chocolate brown.

 

He fell and slid back into the creek when he was climbing out because the muddy banks were slippery.  He slid in so his legs were in the coursing water up to his knees.  Getting back up, he crawled up the bank and made it to the top this time, laughing aloud at himself while doing so.

 

The rain was still falling, and he opened his arms to it and turned around twice.  It was a soft and warm; the torrent had become a steady rain, and Mickey loved it.

 

He got back home and was going to walk inside when he happened to see his muddy footprints on the front steps.  He backtracked to the driveway, then made his way to the backyard and opened the gate.

 

His mother had seen him through the kitchen window and stepped out onto the back porch.  She started yelling as soon as he stepped through the gate.

 

“Mickey!  What in the world, boy?!  You’re soaking wet!  What were you doing out in the rain?  Why didn’t you get under cover?  Are you trying to catch pneumonia?  I have a good mind to bend you over my knee, even if you are eight!  You can’t come in the house like that!  Oh my Lord, just look at you!  Wait till your father comes home!  He’ll hear about this!  Gallivanting all over who knows where, coming back looking like a drowned dog!  And smiling about it!”

 

This criticism, given in his mother’s sternest voice, might have had a larger effect had Mickey heard it.  But he’d learned to tune out his mother when he was six and was quite proficient at it now.  Besides that, when he’d come through the gate, the first thing he’d seen, and the first thing that had seen him, was his Labrador retriever, Butch.

 

Butch was as wet as Mickey was.  He loved water, and had been frolicking in the rain much as Mickey had.  Now, joyful that his master was back, he jumped at Mickey, barking happily, and Mickey, arms open wide, caught him and fell backwards into the wet grass.  There they wrestled and rolled around as though they were trying to get even wetter.

 

There was a grassless area near Butch’s doghouse where he’d worn the lawn down to dirt.  That area was now mud.  And that was where the two ended up, rolling around in the sticky sludge.  Suddenly, they were both slipping and sliding and not able to control themselves at all.  Mickey couldn’t stand up, and Butch couldn’t get sufficient purchase with his feet to get on top of Mickey so he could lick his face.

 

It took no time at all, and then they were both the same dark brown color, with only the whites of their eyes and of their teeth showing through their wide grins, standing out from the mud-covered rest of their faces.

 

Mickey’s mother had stopped yelling at him, and in fact was now laughing.  She shook her head and tried to be annoyed at their silliness, but found it impossible not to laugh at the pair of them.

 

Finally both dog and boy were exhausted.  Butch shook himself, then lay down on his side in the grass.  Mickey lay down next to him and rested his head on Butch’s heaving side.

 

“Take all your clothes off, Mickey, when you’re rested.  I’ll get the hose, and you can clean both yourselves off.”  His mother smiled at them, shook her head but couldn’t stop herself from smiling as she went back in the house.

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Cary

 

 

Cary was anxious, racing to get home.  He could smell the rain coming, it was darker in front of him than behind, and he still had a mile to go.

 

He was standing, pumping his ancient Schwinn which weighed almost as much as he did, pumping as hard and as fast as he could, using all the weight and muscle he had.  He was coming to a downhill stretch of the street, and he knew he could relax a little.  That was one place the old bike’s weight actually helped.

 

It was climbing the hill to get to the top that was a struggle.  He was almost there when a boy he knew, a kid also in the fourth grade, blew past him.  It was easy for the kid because he had a light-weight, 21-speed bike and he was cruising in a low gear.  He smiled and waved at Cary as he sped past.  Cary cringed and dropped his glance.  He sort of liked the guy, liked him in a way he knew he couldn’t ever tell anyone about.  Not that the guy would ever like him back.  Cary’s family was poor and this kid was rich.  It embarrassed Cary that the guy had seen him on this junker he rode.

 

“Grrrr,” said Cary, and kept pumping.

 

The rain started when he was just over the top and heading down the hill.  It was light at first but quickly increased into a steady shower.  His downhill speed was forcing the drops into his face head on, making it difficult to see.  He found if he turned his head to the side, it was still bad, but better.

 

The road was getting slick, but Cary raced on.  After this downhill stretch it would be mostly level till he reached his own street.  It was slightly uphill from there to his house, but that was only a short distance.

 

As he was passing the halfway point of the hill he began to wonder why he was trying to go so fast.  He was already soaked.  Yeah, the rain was cold and uncomfortable as heck, but he was wearing himself out, and saving a couple of minutes didn’t make much sense now.

 

There was a stop sign and a cross street at the bottom of the hill, and Cary figured he’d better slow down.  He was going fast, almost too fast, and he felt his tires briefly lose traction when he hit any sort of bumps.  He saw the other guy a ways in front of him having the same trouble, maybe even more, because Cary’s old bike’s wide tires had more traction than the other boy’s modern thin ones.

 

Cary pressed back on his pedal, and his drum brakes slowed him.  He let up and started to pick up speed again just from the pull of gravity down the hill.

 

The boy in front of him was thinking the same thing and gently squeezed the brake handle that controlled his rear-wheel caliper brake; he only squeezed the handle softly, wanting merely to slow his descent.

 

Nothing happened.  The rims are wet, he told himself, and squeezed a little harder.  Nothing.  He squeezed really hard, then.  The cross street was approaching.  But the brakes did nothing.  He squeezed both the front and rear brakes at the same time as hard as he could.  They had no effect.  He could see the small, rubber brake pads tighten on the front rim, and see they had no grip at all.

 

There was no stop sign controlling the cross street.  He could see cars driving across the street he was on without slowing.  It was a busy road.

 

His rear wheel skidded briefly and he had a sickening feeling in his stomach he was going to go down, and then the tire was holding again.  But the cross street was fast approaching.  Scared now, not slowing at all, he had a quick, terrifying thought: if he shot across the cross street without stopping, even if a car did see him in time, would it be able to stop?  Or would its tires skid just as his were doing?

 

He wasn’t going to be able to stop.  He knew that, and his heart sped up so it was racing.  He was going way too fast, the cross street was only a few seconds away now, and his brakes weren’t working at all.  There was nothing he could do.

 

Scared to death now, feeling entirely helpless about doing anything to save himself, he was preparing mentally as best he could for being hit by a car when, on his left, he saw something.  There was Cary!  He was pumping as hard as he could and had drawn abreast of the kid.  Then Cary pulled ahead, only as far as the kid’s front tire, and turned slightly into his path.

 

They were going way too fast for much control, and the kid’s tires weren’t holding well on the wet pavement in any case, but the kid, almost by instinct, turned away from Cary so as not to crash into him.  The kid was sure his tires would slip, but somehow, someway, the bike turned and he stayed on it, wobbling.

 

There was a driveway cut into the curbing at the side of the road.  A very providential driveway.  The kid’s bike was on a path to that driveway, not into the raised curb, and before he even had time to think, he was angling into it, then up over the sidewalk and onto the lawn that bordered the driveway.  He was still going way too fast and was just hanging on.

 

The grass was more slippery than the pavement.  Wobbling as he was, the kid felt his tires start to slide, and then his bike was going down, sliding out from under him, and he hit the ground hard.  He tumbled and slid on the wet grass and finally came to a stop just a foot away from the concrete steps that led up to the house’s front porch.

 

The boy had the wind knocked out of him and just lay in the wet grass, trying to breathe.  When that stopped being such a struggle, he made an assessment of himself.  He was surprised to discover nothing hurt very much.  He tried to stand and found his right knee was stiffening, and the right side of his face felt bruised; other than that, he was pretty much OK.

 

Then he remembered Cary, and turned around.

 

Cary was lying on the strip of lawn between the sidewalk and street.  He wasn’t moving.  His bike had hit the curb at an angle after Cary had deflected the other kid into the driveway.  He’d been standing on his brakes at the time, but had been going as fast as he could to catch up with the other kid, and while the brakes stopped his wheel from turning, the wet street provided too little traction for that to slow his bike much.

 

Cary’s bike had hit the curb and stopped.  Cary had flown over the handlebars and landed both awkwardly and hard on the lawn strip.

 

The other boy saw Cary lying still.  He saw the oversized, hand-me-down jacket he wore, the tattered sneakers, the blue jeans with a small hole in one knee.  He saw the long brown hair than had needed cutting weeks before.  He thought he’d never seen anything that had looked nobler.

 

He hobbled over to Cary and crouched down, wincing as his knee protested.

 

“Hey!” he said.  Cary didn’t respond. 

 

“Hey, you all right?  Please be all right!”

 

No response.

 

The boy didn’t know what to do.  He was ten.  The only thing he could think of was to get help.

 

He started to stand up again when he heard a groan.

 

Then there was another groan, and the boy saw Cary’s eyelids flicker, and then open.

 

“Hey,” the boy repeated, much more softly this time.

 

Cary got his eyes to focus on him.  The kneeling boy gave him a shy smile.  “You saved my life,” he said.  “You’re a hero.”

 

Cary tried to smile.  “I didn’t want you to die.”  Then he groaned again.  He felt awful.

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Ryan

 

 

“Thanks, Suzy.”

 

She kissed his cheek, smiled and bounced away.  Suzy always seemed to be bouncing.

 

Chris Reynolds smiled and took the book she’d just returned to him and put it in his locker.  He grabbed his backpack, stuffed in a few books, slammed the door and turned to leave.  He was grabbed from behind.

 

“Guess who?”

 

“Uh, Brittany?  Chloe?  Maryann?  Claire?  Jessica?”

 

“You shit!”

 

“Oh!  Holly!  I can tell by your vocabulary!”

 

She laughed and let go, came around to his side and, both hands on his arm, rose on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek.  “You going home?”  She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper.  “Want to come to my house instead?  No one’s home.  It’d be just us.”  She wiggled her eyebrows.

 

“Yeah, that’d be great, but I can’t.  Erickson’s paper’s due tomorrow, and I’ve only got it outlined.  A thousand words, can you believe it?”

 

“I could write it for you?”  She gave him a look that said, ‘and do other things for you’.

 

“Yeah, but I don’t want to get a D.”

 

“You shit!”  Laughing when she said it.

 

“You already said that.  Anyway, I’ve got to book.  Later.”  Chris smiled at her, and she kissed his cheek again.  He watched her walk away and then suddenly yelled, “Hey, Connor, wait up,” and take off running down the hall, her blonde ponytail bouncing with each step.

 

He sighed, his smile momentarily deserting him, hitched his backpack up on his shoulders, and walked to the doors and out into the bright sun.

 

[o]

 

“NO!  Get lower!  The low man always wins.  How many times do I have to say that?  Jesus, Parry!”

 

Coach Collins shook his head, and sweat flew from the ends of his hair.  Ryan Parry stood up from where he’d been lying on the ground.  Gary Maddox grinned at him.  Gary had just put him on the ground, submarining him in their one-on-one, offensive versus defensive lineman drills.  Gary was the team’s best offensive tackle.  Ryan was a substitute defensive end.  Ending up lying on the grass with his opponent standing over him in drills wasn’t a very good way to earn more playing time, and he knew it.

 

It was September, but the days were still hot and the afternoons even hotter.  When the coach finally blew the whistle, Ryan thankfully trudged off for the shower, helmet hanging by his side, held by his fingers interlaced in the faceguard.

 

He slumped by his locker and peeled his sweat-soaked practice uniform and equipment off his thick body.  Naked, he made his way to the showers.  Most of the other guys were as exhausted as he was, and the usual banter was subdued.

 

He showered quickly.  All the guys knew he was gay, and accepted him—this was 2011 after all—but he still liked to get out of the showers as soon as possible.  No point in inviting comments, or accusations, or even teasing, though there hadn’t been any since the incident with Josh Peters earlier in the year.  The coach had taken care of that.  Coach Collins might be a hard-ass on the practice field, but he was a good man as far as Ryan was concerned.

 

Dressed, he went to his locker, grabbed his backpack and walked to the parking lot.  Some cars were still there, mostly belonging to fellow football players.  The rest of the kids were long gone.  He got in and started up his antique Honda Civic, then took off for home.  He had a test the next day. 

 

Driving home, he sighed when he saw the most popular kid at the school, Chris Reynolds, walking with a girl on each side of him.  As he watched, the one on his right reached up and kissed his cheek, and the one on the left took hold of his hand.  He didn’t feel bad that Chris had so much going for him, he simply envied him all the attention he got.  Chris had to shoo the hordes of girls off as if he was fighting flies at a picnic.  Ryan really, really wanted a boyfriend, but didn’t expect one that looked like Chris.  Chris was six feet tall and slender, with stylish blond hair, a handsome face and an outgoing personality.  He smiled at everyone, talked to everyone, and his popularity came naturally. 

 

Ryan was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 pounds.  He wasn’t especially attractive.  He’d decided long ago that he was average in the looks department, neither handsome nor ugly, but just the fact that he was big and a football player intimidated a lot of average guys and cut into his already small chances of finding a boy he could build a relationship with.  He often wished he weren’t so big.  He’d have traded his size for his position on the football team in a heartbeat.  But he was big, and ordinary looking, and he simply had to deal with it.

 

What he wanted was what Chris had: people he could date and get intimate with letting him know they wanted to be with him.  Along with being big, he was also somewhat shy when it came to social interactions.  Aware of his intimidation factor and to make up for the embarrassment of being bigger than his peers, he’d taken to withdrawing into the background and trying to blend in when he was 11, and that behavior had stuck.

 

He drove past Chris and his flirty girls and caught a quick look at them in the rearview mirror.  Yeah, Chris was perfect.  But he’d have to set his sights a lot lower.

 

[o]

 

“Did you hear?”  Holly Abrams was sitting at the popular-girls table, looking across the cafeteria to where the popular boys ate.  Chris was there, and Holly had her eyes on him.

 

“What?” Suzy Parkson asked.

 

“I heard Chris Reynolds is gay.”

 

“What!  No way!”

 

“Yeah, it’s going around.  I don’t think I believe it, either, but that’s what I heard.”

 

“Well, I know for sure he isn’t,” Suzy scoffed.  “We went out a couple of weeks ago, and afterward….  Well, he’s not gay.”

 

“You mean you…?”

 

“He’s not gay.”

 

“Oh, my God!”  Holly’s eyes were flashing.  “What did you do?  What’s he like?  Did you see him, I mean, naked and all?”

 

Suzy smiled.  No, she hadn’t seen him naked.  All they’d done was make out a little, not even shedding any clothes, but she’d felt him get hard.  No point in saying that, though.  Better if Holly thought she was out of the running with him.  “He’s pretty big, and, well, I know there’s nothing to that rumor.”

 

Maryann Coldwater, sitting next to Suzy, spoke up.  “I heard that, too, though.”

 

Suzy frowned.  “Who told you?”

 

“I just overheard some girls talking in the bathroom.  I didn’t see who it was who said it.”

 

Suzy shook her head, and smiled, affecting confidence and private knowledge.  “All I can say is, no way, José.”

 

[o]

 

Practice had stopped when the first lightning was seen, followed by a rumble of thunder.  Everyone dashed for the locker room; showers were quickly taken, followed by a race to the parking lot.  Everyone was in cars, those who didn’t have one catching rides with those who did.  Ryan ended up alone, as usual.

 

He waited till the parking lot was empty so he didn’t have to stop and go, beep and creep all the way out.  Once on the street, he drove slowly because the skies had really opened up and visibility was poor.

 

He slowed even more when he saw a lone figure walking in the rain, drenched.  He was a high-school kid by the looks of him.  Ryan pulled up next to the guy to see if he wanted a lift and was surprised to see who it was.  He pulled over, reached for the right-hand door handle, and pushed it open.

 

“Hey, Chris.  Get in!”

 

Chris jumped into the car, dripping water all over.  “Oh, man!  Thanks so much!   I was starting to think I’d drown before I got home.  Sorry about the water all over your car.”

 

“No prob, dude.  It’ll dry.  How come you’re out here anyway?  School was out an hour ago.”

 

“Library. Wow!  Look at the rain.  Thanks so much for picking me up.”

 

Ryan looked over at Chris, who bore a striking resemblance to a drowned rat, looking nothing like his usual self.  He normally wore stylish jeans and pressed polo shirts with name-brand sneaks, his long blond hair artfully cut and arranged.  Chris was usually the model of a teen idol.

 

Now he looked like something a cat wouldn't drag in.

 

Ryan and Chris knew each other as kids will when they go to the same high school, but they weren’t friends.  They were both jocks, although Chris didn’t play football.  He was a diver on the swimming team, and one of the best in the district.  Ryan had a crush on Chris, rather like he had on a number of attractive boys, a crush from afar, and had no thoughts at all of it going anywhere.  He knew Chris was out of his league and that he was straight. 

 

Perhaps because they didn’t really know each other, perhaps because Ryan wasn’t a great conversationalist, but there was silence in the car for a while.  Ryan was desperately trying to think of what to say.  Chris occasionally glanced at Ryan, but said nothing.

 

Ryan felt he had to say something.  The silence was becoming thick.

 

“Hey,” Ryan finally blurted, relieved he’d thought of something to break the tension.  “I saw you walking home the other day with Chloe on one side and Adrian on the other.  Must be nice!”  He laughed and looked over at Chris.

 

“You think?”

 

Ryan was surprised at Chris’s tone of voice.  He sounded as if he wasn’t at all happy about it.  “Well, yeah, of course I think that.  Two really pretty girls.”  He paused for a moment.  “I wish I had a couple of cute guys trying to get into my pants,” he said wistfully.  Ryan didn’t mind saying that.  He’d been out, way out, for a couple of years now.  One thing he liked about being bigger than most kids: no one gave him any grief about his orientation.  He was who he was, and he never shied away from it.

 

“Yeah, but what if it were ten of them, not two?  And what if they wouldn’t leave you alone?  Ever!”

 

“Well, I’d like to try that out for a while, I think.  It might take me a year or so to get tired of it.”

 

He saw his joke had gone flat.  Chris was staring out the windshield and not smiling.  Ryan wanted to get their conversation going again, but talking himself out of an awkward impasse wasn’t something he was adept at.  He tried to think what to say, but nothing came to him.  The silence was getting to him, and he started fidgeting, glancing at Chris, who seemed to be staring blankly in front of him, looking nervous for no reason at all that Ryan could see.  Ryan had to say something.  But what?  Small talk and he were like ice cream and vinegar.  In desperation, he finally blurted something out, and then winced.

 

“Hey, Chris, so what about this rumor going around?”

 

Chris shifted his eyes from the windshield and looked over at Ryan.  “What rumor?”

 

“It’s all over the place.  That you’re gay.  What the hell, man?  I can’t believe anyone could swallow that one!  I wonder who started it.”

 

Chris was silent, just looking at him.  Ryan knew he never should have said that.  Never in a hundred years.  They didn’t even know each other.  Had he pissed Chris off?

 

Chris was looking nervous again, and then opened his mouth.

 

I did,” he said.

 

“What?!”

 

“Yeah.  I did.”

 

“But….”

 

“Why?  Because I’ve always got all these girls hanging all over me, and I got tired of it.  They all want to make out, or do even more.  I’m fed up with it.  And because I was hoping. . . .”  His voice faded off.

 

“Got tired of it?”  Ryan shook his head in disbelief.  “I’d give my left nut to have a bunch of guys hanging all over me.”

 

“Yeah, well, that’s only because it hasn’t happened yet for you.  If it had, if you had to put up with it every day and didn’t much like the guys doing the hanging, you’d understand.”

 

“Well,” Ryan mused, “like I said, I’d like to try a few months of it to see for myself how terrible it is.  I’ve been sort of hoping, you know?  So far, I guess it’s too many for you and none at all for me.”  He grinned at Chris. 

 

Chris didn’t grin back. “Well, I know you don’t have a boyfriend, but haven’t you, you know, at least messed around some?”

 

Ryan shook his head.  “Never.”

 

“Wow!  That sucks.”

 

“That’s another never,” Ryan said, and grinned again, but this time it was forced.

 

Chris looked at him, and then grinned abashedly.  “Sorry.  I didn’t mean it like that.”

 

“Yeah, I know.”

 

There was silence then as the two semi-strangers thought their own thoughts.

 

Then Ryan asked, “So, you’ve got a lot of them trying to crawl all over you, so many that you started a rumor to make them back off.  Isn’t there one of them that you like?”

 

Chris didn’t answer right away.  Ryan looked over at him and saw he was being stared at.  “What?” he said, frowning.

 

Chris turned away, then spoke to the windshield.  “Yeah, there’s one I like.”

 

“Ah, I knew it.  What?  She doesn’t like you?  I don’t believe that.  Oh, I get it, she doesn’t know.”

 

“Nope.  But I’m going to tell ‘em.”  Chris sat up a little straighter.

 

Ryan glanced over at him.  Why was Chris sounding like that, all evasive and nervous and shit?

 

Chris spoke again, sounding even more nervous now.  “See, I’ve been waiting to tell them, planning it.  And it worked out just right.  I started walking, waited till practice was over and started walking, and then here you came by, just like I knew you would, and you picked me up, like I knew you would, and now, finally, we’re talking.

 

“See, I started the rumor because it’s true and I wanted you to know.  I thought you might approach me, but you didn’t.  So I figured out how to approach you, and when, and then I was just waiting… for it to rain.”

 

 

 

 

 

6.  Jeremy

 

 

Midterm exam

Modern Religion 204

Professor Turner

Monday, January 31, 2011

 

Essay Question – 50 points

 

In your own words, give your opinion on the current events topic we’ve discussed in class: whether God is in favor of homosexual partnerships or if He finds them sinful. Please give me any ‘proof’ or personal events or observations that you feel support your thesis.

 

As I am asking for your own views, reciting what is in the texts and has been brought out in class will earn minimal credit. I wish to know your own thoughts, why you believe what you believe.



Jeremy looked at the question, and then at the clock. He had about 35 minutes left. He frowned and scratched his head. He’d never really encapsulated his views on the question. He was a sophomore, and homosexuality hadn’t been something ever discussed in his Southern home or even among his friends. Now he was at college where attitudes were more liberal, and he even knew some gay kids. They weren’t at all what he’d expected them to be.

 

He thought, stopped scratching, and looked at the clock. 32 minutes. He picked up his pencil and began writing.

 

 

 

Professor Turner -

 

If you’d asked me this question last year, I’d probably have had a different answer. When you’re 18, you’re pretty sure you know everything. When you’re 20 you know you don’t know everything and even start wondering if you know anything. But you didn’t ask what I know; you asked what I believe, and what I can prove.

 

So, here goes. I believe that God accepts homosexual relationships. I believe it and I can prove it. I’ll explain how.

 

I’ve been going out with a girl named Julie since the beginning of the semester. At first she was kind of standoffish, being from the South like I am and a very good girl. But there’s a lot of pressure here to match up with someone, and a lot of girls feel there’s only one way to really land a steady date, and so for a few months now she’s been acting a lot more like Northern girls, which suits me just fine, because Southern boys have a different slant on this than Southern girls.

 

Anyway, I was studying for your test this weekend, all Saturday and into Sunday, and finally got to a point where nothing was sticking in my head anymore, and I knew I needed to do something to relax and take away some of the stress I was feeling. In fact, I decided I needed to do what works best for me to relieve some tension. Step one was to call Julie.

 

She said she was studying, too, but if so, she studies with Metallica rasping in the background and what sounded like a party going on in her dorm room. But I sweet-talked her, and she said I could come over if I’d take her to TGIF for a burger. I said I would if she’d help me relax afterward back in my dorm wink-wink, and she said that was the least romantic offer she’d ever had and never to say wink-wink to her again. She talks that way sometimes.

 

So I went over there and collected her, and we got our burgers—there went an easy $25—and we were walking back to my place, and I was holding her hand and sort of cooing in her ear, like they like, you know? And I could sort of tell she was getting into an obliging mood. Well, we got to where one path leads to my dorm and one to hers, and what happened? I’ll tell you what happened—the skies opened up. Rain like you’ve never seen before, unless of course you were out in it Sunday afternoon.

 

In about 30 seconds flat, maybe less, we were both soaking wet; I mean to the skin. Now, to me, that seemed sort of like a good deal and I even thanked God for that rain, thanked Him in my head, because it meant I’d be getting her out of her clothes without all the folderol I usually have to go through. But she’s not like me. She didn’t see getting soaked like a fire hose had been turned on us as romantic. She got pissed, yelled at me for not bringing an umbrella and stormed off to her own dorm, shrieking something about her hair and not even apologizing for leaving me terminally horny.

 

Well, there was no point in standing there watching her. I trudged back to my own dorm and sloshed upstairs to my room. As I was unlocking my door, the guy who lives across the hall from me, Jaime, opened his door, took one look at me and said, “What in the world? You look like you’re freezing! Hold on a sec.”

 

Which was when I realized I was shivering like crazy. I hadn’t even noticed. Jaime ran into his room and then right back out with a huge bath towel. “Come on,” he said, and dragged me into my room, then started peeling my T shirt off. When that dropped to the floor with a sort of soggy splat,  Jaime attacked me with that towel, rubbing my front and back briskly with the towel, both drying and warming me.

 

He did that for a few moments, then stopped and looked at my soaking pants. “Those have to come off, too,” he said, and with surprising dexterity, had the belt, button and flies open in no time, almost as if he’d done this before.

 

He yanked down both my pants and boxers in one go and started in with his towel again, this time, thankfully, not quite so roughly in the middle section.  He was thorough, though. Very thorough.

 

Now, even a professor of religion must know what happens when a horny, almost-still-a-teen boy gets handled by someone intent on getting him fully dry. All over. And that’s what happened.   Jaime stepped back, looked at me, and said, “Well, my oh my, what have we here?”

 

Now, I forgot to mention that Jaime is gay. But he is. He told everyone the first day when we all moved in.  Not that he really had to.  He was one of those guys you just knew.  Even I, with minimal to nonexistent experience with gay guys, knew. But, besides that, he was really cute and as nice a guy as you’d ever want to meet. He was one of the ones who changed my perspective on gay guys.

 

I’d never had any inclination to experiment with the other side, and Jaime had never shown any interest in recruiting for his side, either.  We were friends but not friends with benefits.

 

Now, however, I was standing there, feeling randy and showing it in a big way. Jaime was looking on with interest. I looked for some moral guidance, and what came to me was something drummed into me all during my childhood. My mother was constantly telling me, “Jeremy, try a bite of everything on your plate. You never know when you’ll try something you really like, even if you thought you wouldn’t.” What better moral compass is there than your own mother?  That’s the best we have, here on earth.

 

So, with that in mind, I said, "I'm still cold." Which in fact I really wasn't, but I thought it might do the trick.

 

In about five seconds I was in bed with a stripped-down Jaime on the pretext he had to get me warm. I was certainly that, and pretty quickly, too.

 

So, that afternoon, I tasted something new, and I cleaned my plate.

 

Isn’t this what college is for? Trying new things, having new experiences and defining our tastes and goals?

 

Now I can see you asking, Professor Turner, what all this has to do with the essay question. That’s easy. You’ve taught us that God is real, and that he controls the earth and the sky and all in between. If that’s so, then He brought the rain that sealed my destiny. He could have waited three more minutes to bring that rain and Julie and I would have been happily ensconced in my bed, watching the rain fall, making heavenly music on the window while we did the same on my sheets in a thoroughly heterosexual sort of way. But did He do that?  No. He brought the rain at the one moment that assuredly would send Julie packing and me into the arms of Jaime. If that wasn’t divine intervention, I don’t know what to call it.

 

Because of that rain, that carefully timed, heaven-sent rain, I ended up in bed with Jaime, and not Julie. If that doesn't prove God supports homosexual relationships, then I have to begin to question your theory about angels dancing on the heads of pins.

 

Oh, and I’ve got a date with Jaime for next Saturday after the basketball game.

 

 

 

 

 

The End