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"Beneath the Surface"

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This discussion is about the one-chapter story Beneath the Surface. It's a moldy oldy based on its Nifty date (1999).


As always, it may be better to read the story first as there may be spoilers in this discussion. On the other hand, in this case, the ending probably will come as no surprise. B)


Unlike virtually every story in this genre, the protagonist here -- 13-year-old Jon -- does not have a guilty secret of liking boys. He has no thought of any such thing. But he is the typical Comicality misanthrope, convinced that he is ugly and not at all up to the standard of the "cool kids" in the school. He doesn't get invited to the big parties, girls don't turn their heads when he walks by -- he thinks it might be an improvement for a bully to decide to pick on him, because at least that would represent attention.


His mood is not improved when a new kid -- Oren -- shows up in his science class, and decides to sit right next to him. Oren represents everything that Jon laments and despises about himself -- he's handsome, athletic, looks like he stepped out of an A&F catalog. He's the kind of person that everyone -- boys and girls -- fawns over. Yet for some reason Oren persists in trying to befriend Jon. The breakthrough comes one day when Oren tells a joke that causes Jon to burst out laughing in class, to the point where he has to excuse himself to get a drink of water in order to recover his composure.


From that point on, Jon and Oren become closer friends. Jon finds himself entertaining unthinkable thoughts about Oren, thoughts going way beyond friendship. It's fair to say that he's pretty freaked out by this. In addition, he persists in believing that he is no better than an ugly duckling, and can't believe that anything could ever happen between him and Oren. He is convinced that Oren will, at any moment, find someone who is more attractive and generally cooler to become serious with.


Yet Oren insists that he likes Jon for the very reason that he's different from the others. He also tries to convince Jon that his (Oren's) life is not a bed of roses either. He doesn't like being in the spotlight, constantly the target of people fawning all over him. He likes Jon because Jon is the one person who actually listens to him and isn't trying to get anything from him.


We readers become suspicious long before Jon does that Oren is developing feelings for Jon. Jon, on the other hand, seems to feel that he needs to distance himself from Oren. One day, the hottest girl in the school, Staci, gives Jon a note that she wants Jon to pass along to Oren. It is a steamy love note, signed only "the one you've been waiting for." That just underscores Jon's determination to wean himself from Oren, for he is convinced that once Oren knows of Staci's interest, Oren will leap at the opportunity to get close to Staci.


Jon gives the note to Oren at the end of the next school day. Shortly afterward, Oren calls Jon and, with great excitement, asks Jon to come right over to his house. Jon assumes that Oren is going to talk about how he plans to get together with Staci. Instead, Jon discovers to his horror that Oren has misunderstood who the note was from, and thinks it was from Jon himself. Oren pours out his heart to Jon, and Jon, in shock, can only respond by setting Oren straight on whom the note was really from. Oren is mortified, and collapses on his bed in tears, thinking that he has now ruined everything with Jon. Thankfully, Jon musters the courage to confess to Oren that he loves him just as much, and the story ends with a rather wet and messy celebration of the two boys' mutual love and lust.


All in all, a satisfying outcome to a nice story.



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