The Busboy

Chapter 3

The next few weeks were a busy time. Jordy got enrolled in school. Being too young for anything but a learners’ permit, Jordy took the school bus there and back. He seemed to fit in right away. Jim decided it was easier to fit in if you were a blond god, tall and strong and were athletic to boot. Plus, the boy wasn’t a bit shy. Jim felt that it was a simple verity: good looks, intelligence and an outgoing personality all coupled with confidence up the ying-yang would carry one far in this world.

Jordy had talked to the football coach the day after he’d arrived. Over dinner, Jordy told Jim how that had gone.

“The team has been practicing for several weeks already, and the coach is a grouch. Plus, I’m only going to be a sophomore. But I guess the coach liked something about me, how I carried myself, or my size, but anyway, I talked him into a tryout.”

Jordy grinned. He was almost a man, but still retained a child’s delight at what he was able to accomplish. It was obvious he liked the fact he’d been able to wrap the coach around his finger.

“Did you make the team?” Jim asked. He knew there’d been a personal tryout for the boy because Jordy had been too late leaving the school to catch the late bus. He’d gotten a ride from someone. Seemed to Jim he’d probably already made a friend.

“Yep!” Jordy grinned at Jim. “Coach liked me. Now I guess I should say this. He runs a version of the spread offense that I learned last year, and so I kind of knew what I should be doing. He tried me at H-back, probably because the kid who had that position last year graduated and none of the juniors had ever played there before. So he tried me there, and I not only made the team, there’s a possibility I might even start.”

“Wow! That’s great, Jordy.” Jim beamed. He liked seeing happy kids as much as he hated seeing sad ones, and this was his son—happy. “So, you get along with all the players? They don’t mind a soph coming in and stealing a position? No resentment? No jealousies?”

“Well, mostly not. There was this one linebacker, a big, red-haired kid who was kind of cocky. The way he talked on the field, you’d have thought he owned it. He was shouting at all the running backs, advising them to stay clear of his area or he’d annihilate them. He probably could, too, as he’s way bigger than any of the backs. Anyway, coach has me working with the first team, and the quarterback calls a slant-and-go. I run the pattern, and he hits me with the ball. The QB is pretty good! Not California-good, but good. Anyway, I look up and the big linebacker has me in his sights. I can almost see him licking his chops. He’s going to demolish this little sophomore, put him in his place.”

“Hey, you’re far from little!” Jim was a parent and easily offended by anything that cast an aspersion on his child.

Jordy laughed. “Compared to him I am. He’s got three inches on me at least, and maybe forty pounds. Looks like he should be in college already. And you can see in his eyes that he’s mean. You know looking at him he loves to hit, to hurt, to dominate people.”

He paused then, remembering, and his grin returned. “I have about three steps before he’ll have me. Three steps is a lot. I take one step straight at him so he’ll set his feet, then I fake left. He shifts his weight that way, I cut right and he reaches for me, but he’s off-balance now. He’s still grinning, though, overconfident, and instead of going wide on him as he expects, I juke back and go right into him. I put my shoulder into his chest. He isn’t expecting that. He’s expecting me to be afraid of him, he’s leaning to the side, only trying to get an arm around me, and I, uh, well, I’m moving forward with all my weight and speed and motivation. I hit him like a 16-pound bowling ball smashing into a single pin. He went flying, landed on his back, and I kept running. I guess you could say I cleaned his clock.” Jordy laughed, thinking about it, remembering how it felt, and Jim could almost taste his glee.

“So that’s how you make friends?” he asked, chuckling.

“Well, not him. I heard him cussing in the locker room, later. ‘F this and screw that.’ He seems like he’s the kind of kid who’s angry about everything. I didn’t see too many kids paying him much attention. He’s not the kind you want as a friend. He seemed to have a couple of hangers-on, but most kids just left him be.”

That night, Jordy was walking back to his room after his shower with just a towel wrapped around his waist. Jim just smiled and nodded at him. But he got a good look at his son. The kid was all muscle! Large chest; strong, wide shoulders; slim waist; large biceps and thighs for a kid his age. Maybe you had to be built that way to play football, Jim thought, but, man-oh-man, the kid was impressive. And he wasn’t quite 16 yet! Jim could see why he could knock down a guy forty pounds heavier.

Jordy saw Jim looking at him and sped up, moving quickly past. As he did, Jim looked into his eyes. He saw what he’d seen before a couple of times. Jordy had closed them off. Jim could read nothing in them.

scene break

That quick look he’d had of Jordy’s eyes weighed on Jim. Normally, the kid was really happy and showed it. He talked at dinner easily, telling about what had happened at school that day, the people he was meeting, his teachers and classes, how football practices were going, the friends he was making. But sometimes—rarely, but sometimes—a shadow seemed to fall across his face. There was something troubling him; that was clear. Jim hated that Jordy might have something on his mind he felt he couldn’t talk about.

There was more than one incident of this. Once, seeing the disturbance in Jordy’s eyes, Jim had been reminded of Tristan, the busboy at the restaurant.

Tristan’s eyes had been that way, too—but much worse. Jordy’s eyes sometimes had that same cast to them, if only briefly. Tristan had seemed to wear that look permanently.

On a day shortly after Jordy’s first football game, Jim decided he needed to talk with his son about what was troubling him and get to the bottom of it. Jordy had played very well in the game and was on cloud nine, talking a mile a minute, even pacing rather than sitting down. Too much energy left, Jim thought, repressing a smile. Then, when Jordy was comparing a play they’d run that night with one he’d run with the same results back in Huntington Beach, he’d suddenly gone still for a moment or two, and afterward wasn’t quite so jazzed up when he began talking again. It seemed to take him some time to get over whatever memory had struck him.

Jordy was really good at changing the subject when there was anything he didn’t want to talk about, and Jim decided that if he was going to get the boy to loosen up and tell him about whatever it was that he was holding in, perhaps being in a different setting, somewhere that Jordy would be restrained and Jim could hold his attention without the boy squirming loose, Jim might be able to focus the conversation without Jordy resisting or closing down. And, Jim knew the perfect place. They could go to Antonio’s. Jim had been meaning to take Jordy there anyway.

Of course, there was another reason to go there that had been nagging at Jim, and he knew he could use that to tiptoe into the discussion he wanted to have with Jordy. If indeed Tristan still worked there. Jim really hoped he did.

scene break

Jordy was happy enough to go out for a late dinner. They’d had a light meal before the game, but that had been hours earlier, and now, the boy was famished again. Tony was at the desk when they walked in. He greeted Jim warmly, told him they’d missed him recently, and Jim introduced him to Jordy. Tony took them to Jim’s booth. This was where Jim wanted to be: it was private enough that there should be no problem with getting Jordy to open up about whatever was bothering him, if something was. Jim thought there was.

A waiter took their order, and Jim was suddenly nervous. Here they were, just as planned, there was silence as the waiter left, and the time was perfect to approach Jordy. Yet, Jim realized it would be difficult to just jump into it cold. He needed to work up to it gently. Where was Tristan? He needed him! That was how he’d planned this: having Jordy see Tristan, then being able to talk about what Jim saw in the busboy’s eyes and compare it to what he occasionally saw in Jordy’s.

Just bringing it up out of the blue could and maybe would put Jordy on the defensive. Jim didn’t want to do that. The best thing to do, he decided at that moment, was to wait. See if Tristan was here and showed up. Patience, that was what was needed.

Just then, when he’d come up with his plan and the silence in the booth was starting to lengthen, Jim saw the busboy. He wasn’t close to them, but in plain sight, clearing a table after the occupants had departed.


“See that boy there?” Jim said, nodding his head in Tristan’s direction. “The busboy?”

Jordy turned slightly to look, then said, “Yeah?”

“I sort of met him a while back. There was something about him bothered me. It was his eyes. They were troubled. Sad. You’ve just seen it. He has the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. But at the same time, he’s handsome and young, and the combination just is strange. Upsetting even.

“He does look young—” Jim had been about to say that the boy wasn’t as young as he looked, but then stopped. He’d also been ready to reveal he’d asked and found out how old the boy was, and that he’d learned he was about the same age as Jordy. But he didn’t want Jordy to think he’d pried into who the boy was to the extent that he had. So he changed tracks. “I wonder. He might be in your school, even in some of your classes. You ever seen him before?”

Jordy turned back to Jim. “I don’t think so. But it’s possible. I usually sit in the front in all my classes when I can, so I don’t really see all the kids in the back much. He might be in some of them. Why?”

“I don’t know. Just curious. When he comes closer and you get a look at him, see if he seems as sad to you as he did to me when I saw him before. You might find him, I don’t know, as intriguing as I did. You might wonder about him, too. It’s his eyes, really.”

This was the opportunity Jim had been waiting for. If the boy would just come by the table, it would be easy. Easy for Jordy to see what he’d seen and then for Jim to say, ‘I sometimes see that in your eyes, too. Can you tell me what that’s all about? I want to help.’

But the boy didn’t come closer, and suddenly Jim felt like this might not be the way to do it, anyway. Such a statement would still be startling to Jordy, coming without any tactful preparation from Jim. Jim also sensed Jordy would immediately deny any problem and would close down. No, the time wasn’t right. He didn’t know how he knew that, but he did; neither the time nor the situation was right.

Jordy started talking about the game again, and the opportunity passed. Jordy was in an ebullient mood, and the dinner was a happy one, with nothing of moment being said.

At the end, when they were finished and Jordy ate a large bowl of spumoni ice cream while Jim watched, wishing he were still 15 with the metabolism of a nuclear reactor, Tristan showed up to clear their places.

“Hi,” said Jim, speaking to the boy. “Remember me, Tristan? You helped me with my crossword puzzle. Gave me some very heady advice?” Jim grinned, then hurried on because the boy had glanced at him only very briefly before continuing to pick up the empty dishes, seeming to hurry, not a bit interested in any conversation. “Anyway, I wanted to introduce you to my son, Jordy. Jordy, this is Tristan.”

Tristan had no options then. He was being introduced and so had to stop and look at Jordy. Jordy stuck out his hand. “Hi,” he said and waited while Tristan cleaned his hand on his apron and then reached out for Jordy’s. The two boys shook, and their eyes met. Briefly. Tristan had a habit of not meeting eyes.

Almost immediately after the handshake, Tristan was gone. He took the dishes and fled. Jordy watched him go, then turned to Jim, saying nothing, looking a bit shocked.

“Yeah,” Jim said, noting his expression. “That’s exactly the effect he had on me. Have you ever seen eyes like that?”

Jordy was shaking his head. “He looks so sad!”

“If he goes to your school, maybe you can talk to him. Ever since I first met him, I’ve had him stuck in my mind. Something about him makes me want to help. Make those eyes change.”

Jordy didn’t say anything to that, and not long afterwards they were back home. Jim was tired. It was late. But Jim was upset with himself for not pressing the opportunity he’d had. The one objective he’d had tonight, the one he’d planned out so deviously, had been there for his exploitation, and he’d blown because of a nebulous reservation he’d had. He’d learned nothing of what he wanted to know. Chickening out, that’s what he’d done.

Jordy was in the kitchen, getting a glass of orange juice before heading up. Jim watched, then mentally said the hell with it.


The boy turned from the refrigerator. “Yeah?”

“Come and sit down, please? I want to ask you something, something that’s been on my mind but haven’t known how to approach. I took you to Antonio’s tonight to talk about it, and then somehow the mood changed, and well, I just didn’t do it. But I want to do so now, if you’re not too tired.”

Jordy came to the table and sat. “What is it?”

Jim thought he was already sounding defensive, but he wasn’t going to quit now. “It’s this. You know how Tristan looked tonight. Your reaction to him was the same as mine, I’m sure, because I was watching you. Well—and this is what I wanted to talk to you about—I’ve seen that same sort of look in your eyes. Not sad like his. Not usually, at least. But I see you remembering something and closing yourself off. I want to know if I can help in any way. I don’t like you having bad memories, if that’s what this is, and wonder if talking about it would help. I wanted to give you that opportunity—with me, or with someone else if you’d rather.”

Jordy looked away from Jim then and didn’t speak right away. The pause grew, Jim waiting in silence, giving him time to think.

Then Jordy said, “When?”

“When did I see it? A few times. It’s just a brief look you get. I saw it at the airport. I saw it the other night when you were just out of the shower walking to your room. Other times, too.”

Jordy looked away again. Then, he slowly turned back to face Jim, looking as if he were forcing himself to do so.

“I guess I should talk about it. It’s hard. But you deserve to know. You won’t like it.”

Jim reached out and put his hand on Jordy’s. “Tell me,” he said, willing a look of utter confidence and compassion into his eyes, attempting to show Jordy with his eyes and voice that no matter what it was, Jim would still be there, supportive and right behind him.

“I have to go way back.” Jordy began. “Back to when you and Mom split up.”

“That was all her,” Jim said, realizing he probably was sounding defensive himself. “She left me, saying she needed more excitement in her life, brighter lights, more action. I wasn’t happy with her, we’d certainly been having problems, but I didn’t want to lose you. Her? No, I wasn’t happy—I don’t see how anyone could be with her—but I was pretty sure if she left, she’d take you with her.”

“I believe you,” Jordy said, meeting Jim’s eyes. “But she won in court, and I had to live with her. You know her: everything is about her. Everything. Once she got custody of me, she just ignored me. She only wanted me because it would hurt you.

“So when I was eleven, even if I was living with her, I was basically on my own. In the same city, of course, but in a new neighborhood where I didn’t know anyone, and I got no support at all from her. She was out a lot, often with men, and I ended up fending for myself a lot. I learned how. I had to. Food. Clean clothes. Clean sheets. Clean living spaces, like the kitchen and bathroom and my own bedroom. I learned.”

Jim squeezed his hand but didn’t want to interrupt him, now that he was talking.

Jordy resumed his tale. “I got used to being on my own. My life had changed completely. We’d moved, of course. All along, she’d had her eyes on Los Angeles and the life it offered her. We left here shortly after the divorce came through. Packed everything up and had it shipped to LA, to her parents’ house.”

He stood and went to the sink and got a glass of water, then came back to the table and continued. “Her dad is rich. I guess you know that. He started buying houses back in the 50s before real estate boomed in Southern California. He used the rent payments to buy more. He leveraged his money and made a fortune. He still owns a dozen or so houses that he rents, and now he has some office buildings, too.”

He stopped to take a drink of water. He drank about half the glass before continuing. “Anyway, he let us live in one of his houses rent-free. He also gave Mom a monthly allowance of $3,000. She’d told him that she’d brought her son, their grandson, across the country to be close to them, and she needed money coming in because she’d lost her access to my income in the bargain. That wasn’t entirely true because I know you were paying child support, but honesty never was a strong point with her. She could take it or leave it.”

His voice was showing the strain of remembering things about his mother that weren’t anything for a son to be proud of. Jim felt for him. Eleven was a difficult age to have your whole world turned upside down and a terrible time for a son to lose his father.

“So anyway, she now had a house to live in free and money coming in from you and her father, and she was happy as a pig in shit. I use that term because if I hadn’t started doing a lot of housework, we’d have been living in a sty. She spent most of her time out, only coming home to sleep. How the place looked didn’t matter to her. It only did if she was bringing a man home, and that did begin to happen. Those times, she told me to have the house neat when she got in that night.”

He paused, his mind a continent away. Then he shook himself.

“I was at a new school and had to make new friends. I’ve never had a problem doing that. I soon had a new best friend, a kid like me who was 11 and who hadn’t yet begun his growth spurt, either. His name was Keith. We were both small and skinny, and the school we were going to was kind of rough, much more so than where I’d gone here. Lots of kids, especially little kids like us, got picked on. Keith and I stayed together as much as possible, and that cut down on the bullying we had to endure but didn’t stop it altogether.

“We didn’t like getting picked on and decided we needed to get stronger. We were lucky; Keith’s dad was a physical trainer who worked at a private gym in town. One thing about LA—there seem to be gyms and workout centers all over the place. Keith told his dad we wanted to work out and get buff, and he took us under his wing. We started spending time in the gym where he worked; didn’t cost us anything, which was good as I didn’t have any money.

“He told us lifting heavy weights wouldn’t be good for us at our age when we were still growing. He knew just how to train us, what exercises to do, just how much weight and how many reps would be OK. He had us doing both weight training and aerobics. We were both eager learners. We both got stronger.”

“We spent a lot of time working out at that gym, and we got bigger. No kids our age or even older were messing with us any longer. But I’d kind of fallen in love with training. Gotten to know some of the other kids our age who worked out in the gym, too. There were a bunch of us. Seems like everyone in SoCal wants to look good.”

He took a glance at Jim, who was rapt hearing what Jordy was saying.

“Having a personal trainer was really good. I was happy, happy with the gym and Keith and even the school now that people left us alone. I was happy everywhere but at home. Mom wasn’t pulling her weight, either at home or with me. I started bitching at her about it, but you know how much difference that makes. Nada. She does what she wants to do, when she wants to do it, and hasn’t a single worry about anyone else’s feelings. She wanted to be out clubbing every night, sleeping late every day, doing squat when she got up. That was just her. Funny, but in the time we lived there, we saw her parents, her supposed reason for moving there, only twice, and that was when they came by our place.

“So I was on my own,” Jordy continued. “I began surfing after I turned twelve—well, learning how to. At school, I decided to try out for the football team, and because of all the work I’d put in at the gym, I found I was stronger and quicker than most of the other kids trying out. I also found a way to get enough money to buy my own clothes and pay for lunch in the cafeteria.”

“How’d you manage that?” Jim asked, curious because he knew how tight Lydia was with any money in her household. Other than when she was using it for herself, of course.

Jordy grinned. It wasn’t a happy grin. “I blackmailed her.”

Jim sat back. “Wow! Now this I want to hear.” He grinned at Jordy. “Tell me.”

“She’d told her dad she needed the allowance she was wrangling from him because she had to take care of me and because, well, it just cost so much to live in LA. The part about me was a lie; you were taking care of that. The rest, how expensive LA was, wasn’t a lie, but that was only because of her lifestyle. With housing costs for us being nothing, we could have lived for much, much less if she’d stayed home nights. She didn’t, and that gave me some leverage. I overheard some of her phone calls to her dad. She told him she had a full-time job in an office and didn’t really need his money but was glad to have it because she was banking most of it for my college fund. That was false. She was spending almost all that money on herself, clothes and booze and taxis and shows and anything she could waste it on. She went club hopping about every other night. But I think her main expense was to support any and every loser boy toy who latched onto her when he found she’d pay his way. That was where a lot of her time and money was going.”

Jordy grimaced, remembering. “So I had a lever. I told her: pay for what I needed, what I wanted, or I’d tell her old man what she was doing. It worked. I got the things a twelve-year-old boy wants out of that extortion: clothes, spending money, athletic gear, a video-game system, a bike, you know, stuff. But necessary stuff for a boy. I bought my own board for the beach, too, instead of having to rent one each time I couldn’t borrow one. That was enough for me, at first. But then things changed, and I had a bigger lever.”

As Jordy said that, his tone got harsher. He finished his water, got some more, and Jim saw how his eyes had become stony when he walked back to the table.

“Changed how?” Jim asked, lowering his voice. He also reached out and laid his hand back on Jordy’s.

Jordy glanced up when that happened. His eyes were hot. Jim could see hard anger in them. “John moved in. Her last boyfriend in the time I was there. Suddenly, Mom was at home a lot more. John was always there, a moocher without a job, lazy as an overfed dog. He had someone to pay his way, now, and for him to spend time doing what he liked best.”

“What was that?” I asked, fearing I already knew.

“Sex. He was a sex addict. And Mom either was, too, or became one. That house…. It wasn’t long before sex was just hanging in the air there. Infusing everything. John would wear these thin, short shorts and no underwear. He was usually shirtless. He was…well, living there, you knew what his equipment looked like. He’d sit on the couch and spread his legs and you couldn’t help but see the outline of it, or see up his pant leg. He seemed to spend a lot of time scratching himself or adjusting. Sometimes, more than once, he’d get hard, and the end would pop out of the bottom of his shorts, and he’d laugh and kind of rub it, not hiding it at all, calling attention to it.”

Jordy sat up a little straighter, moving his hand away from Jim’s. “They were just into it. They’d sunbathe naked in the backyard. They didn’t care if I could see them or not. I tried not to. Who wants to see their mother naked?! Or her boyfriend?! But they’d lie out there, lie on their backs, and even trying not to, I’d sometimes, just passing a window, catch a glimpse of them. One time, her hand was lying on his dick. It was awful.

“And in the house, they did it a lot, not trying to keep the noise down. I heard it all the time. Once, when I came home, they were doing it on the living room couch, both naked. They didn’t stop. I went to my room, trying not to see anything. When I came out, John just laughed at me and said, ‘Learn anything?’”

“I stopped being there at the house as much as I could. Just stayed away. The place I hung out the most was the gym. I felt safe there.”

“Safe?” Jim hadn’t known he’d felt threatened. Not at home, certainly. Uncomfortable, yes; disgusted, probably; but unsafe?

“I haven’t told you everything. Yeah, by the time I was fourteen, fourteen and a half, John had started looking at me—in a way that was different. Before, he’d mostly smirked at me, like he was thinking, see, I can do anything I want with your mom. But as I said, he was a sex hound, and maybe he was growing tired of her. By then, he was looking at me as though maybe he could do to me what he was doing to her. Like he was finding me interesting.”

Jim opened his mouth to speak, but Jordy forged ahead. “I was already confused about sex. I hadn’t ever done anything with anyone else other than a little kissing and groping with girls who’d come on to me like they do with football players, and I hadn’t really liked that; at least I hadn’t in the same way the boys I knew said they liked it. I thought maybe I was just too young. It didn’t bother me that some of the other boys were bragging about their exploits. I just figured that when I was ready, I’d be ready. No big deal.

“But now, at home, I got the impression this man, John, wanted to have sex with me. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to have sex with anyone. But he’d look at me, and it started to be very tense at home.

“Sex was always in the air there, and now it was bad because of John looking me over. I hated him; we hadn’t got along ever since he’d moved in. He’d been there a long time by this time and acted like he owned the place. He was creepy and lazy, and as much as I could, I just ignored him. That got harder, though, with this new thing going on. He began getting in my way a lot, sometimes bumping into me, rubbing against me. I needed to push him off a lot. I was probably stronger than he was, but he was always there, and he was a man, and I was a boy.

“My main way to avoid him was simply to be away from the house a lot, especially when I knew Mom wouldn’t be there. I didn’t want to be alone with John. Even though I guessed I could take him in a fight, I wasn’t sure. He had a lot of weight on me. If he caught me from behind…. Anyway, I stayed away.

“When I turned fifteen, he began to get more obvious about wanting me. Maybe he thought that by that age, I was sexually active already and would be more interested. I wasn’t. I guess I was a late bloomer in that regard. Maybe all the exercising, weights, working out—all of it delayed me. I don’t know. But John was getting a look on him that had me prepared for the worst. I took to keeping a baseball bat by my bed and locked my bedroom door at night.”

Jim didn’t like where this was going. He got up to get himself a drink or to delay where he thought this was going.

“The more time I’d been spending at the gym worked in my favor,” Jordy continued when Jim was again seated at the table. “Not just the getting stronger part, either. I was there a lot, and you can only lift so many weights and walk so many miles on a treadmill. I started watching a guy who worked on fundamentals with a group of kids who wanted to learn to box. Eventually, since I was there so often, he got me involved in it, too, and I began sparring. That led me to taking a karate class that was taught at the gym. I got pretty good at both. I was doing it because it was fun and I had an aptitude for it, but also so if John ever attacked me, he’d find I was able to fight back.”

Jordy raised his eyes to Jim’s. “And then John made a move on me. As I said, he’d been more obvious watching me, rubbing himself while doing so, smirking at me, and I was pretty sure it was coming. Mom was out somewhere, and it was just the two of us; I couldn’t always avoid that. He took a shower, then came out of the bathroom, drying off, and stood in the doorway of my room, sort of doing a striptease with the towel, giving me quick shots at his half-hard boner. Then he reached down and held it, letting it harden even further. I looked up at his eyes and saw lust, not an unusual look for him. But this one was so predatory it was obvious what was happening and that it was directed at me, and the time was then.

“Which was exactly what he said. ‘It’s time, kid,’ he said, standing in my bedroom doorway, his erection in his hand. He called me kid most of the time. ‘You’re going to like this.’ And he stepped into the room, dropping the towel.

“So, I stood up. This was only a couple of months ago. I was the same size I am now. It was a warm Southern California day, and I didn’t have a shirt on, just my shorts. I moved my feet into a balanced, fighting position, and said, “If you come into this room any farther, be ready to defend yourself.” My hands were in fists, and he must have heard something in my voice or seen something in my eyes, because he stopped. His eyes ran over my body before returning to my face, and I saw them harden. ‘You think you can take me, boy?’ he asked.

“I laughed at him. ‘Without breaking a sweat,’ I said. ‘You’re fat and lazy and slow, but, just in case…’ And I picked up my handy baseball bat.

“He looked at me, looked at the bat, waited a second or two, then simply turned and walked away. Remember when I said I had a bigger lever to use on my mom? Well, that was it for me. All that aura of sex in the house, the naked fucking on the couch, the naked sunbathing, the constant innuendoes and tension, and now an open threat by John—I had more than enough. So, I used my lever. I told Mom I was going to tell a counselor at school what was happening in that house; about John coming on to me standing naked in my doorway, playing with himself; about having to defend myself to keep from being raped; and that I’d tell her father all about it, too; tell him everything. I told her the only way I’d be silent was if I could come live with you, Dad. That, or else!”

“Wait a minute!” Jim was shocked. “I’d thought your coming to live with me was her idea. It was you?”

“Yeah. I’d wanted to live with you all along, and living there in that house had become impossible. Not just John’s threat, but all that sex I was around there when I was already confused about my own sexuality, about why no one was turning me on. About not being really able to enjoy all the girls throwing themselves at me because of football and maybe because, I guess, they liked my looks.”

He stopped then and moved his eyes away. He said the last of it without any eye contact at all. “When you saw me coming out of the shower the other night, you looked at me. No, no, there was nothing wrong with that. But it reminded me of John looking at me. His look was much different. You just looked at me. He looked at me with sex in his mind and me as the target. And I remembered that. If you saw something in my eyes then, that was it: remembering John.”

He stopped again for a moment, then said, “Sometimes things remind me of back there. That’s probably what you’ve seen in my eyes. I do have memories.”

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They spoke some more before going to bed that night. Jim was furious at Lydia, furious about John, but Jordy said they were their own worst enemies and to let them be. He didn’t want any more involvement with either of them. He was safe now and had a new life, a life miles and miles from back there, and he said that was what he wanted.

Eventually, they said good night to each other. Jim was surprised that, with the awful tale he’d just heard, he had no trouble falling asleep. He thought about it in the morning and decided it was because Jordy was fine with things as they now were. That had a calming effect on Jim. Perhaps that was why sleep had come easily.

The same wasn’t true for Jordy. Even being exhausted from the game, the late meal and then the ordeal of talking to Jim about his life in California, he still tossed and turned for quite a while before sleeping. What was on his mind wasn’t his past few years in California. Instead, it was the sad-looking boy he’d met earlier in the evening.

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