It's funny. When I start a story, the first thing I do is put down an outline. I usually get through a few chapters and the outline goes to crap. I get an idea and just start going with it. Some of those detours were the characters Charlie Danner and Hunter the Cowboy. Hayden, too. So the outline I had for this story is gone.
Meet Conner Cooper!
THE PREACHER’S KID II: COLLEGE AND BEYOND
by Geoff Chassen
Chapter 6 – Not So Bad After All
Fuck! I’m acting like a little girl! I can’t believe I got so fucking jealous that Matty was already making friends on the first day of class. The fact that this Alex—a fucking girl, no less—supposedly looks like me, didn’t help one bit.
I didn’t sleep well at all last night. So when my alarm went off at 7:00, I probably got all of two hours of sleep. I went into the kitchen and brewed some coffee. While I was brewing over the way I was acting, I got a text from Nate asking if he could come over and use my printer. He was out of blue ink and needed to print some fliers for school. He was here in less than five minutes with his laptop.
“Thanks for helping me out, Eddie. Eddie? Are you there, Eddie?”
“Oh. Shit! I’m sorry, Nate. My mind is on other stuff.”
“You look like shit, big bro. Something wrong with Matty?”
“Nope. He’s fine. Just fucking fine.”
“Now I know something’s wrong. The only time you drop an f-bomb with me is if you’re pissed off—or sad.”
“Just go print your stuff. I’ll be okay.”
Nate went into the office—Matty’s old room—and I heard the printer start up a few minutes later. Not even a minute later, he came back down to the living room.
“Okay. Time to cut the crap, Eddie. Donald was in the hallway, and I asked him what was up with you. He said you got real pissy after you talked to Matty last night. So—spill it.”
“You wouldn’t understand. Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine.”
The little fucker just stood in the middle of the kitchen with his arms across his chest—staring at me.
“Don’t ‘what’ me, Eddie Hamilton. You’re the one who taught me that just talking about the things you think no one else understands helps you understand it better. Your camp taught me that communication is the key to a happy and successful life. It’s time to practice what you preach.”
“Sometimes I hate you, you little shit—especially when I know you’re right. That camp turned you into a monster.”
Nate sat down next to me at the island and took my hand. “So tell me what happened when you talked to Matty.”
“It’s stupid, really. I got jealous that he’s already made a new best friend—on the first day of classes. But what really bothered me was he sounded so happy.”
“It’s a girl.”
“He said she’s my doppelganger.”
“Look it up. I had to.”
Nate pulled out his phone, and in just seconds, he had his answer.
“You’re pissed because you have a double, and it’s a girl?”
“Well, that kinda bothers me, too. I mean, come on Nate—do I look like a girl?”
“No! Not even a little bit. So she probably looks more like a boy. Ever think of that?”
“No. I haven’t thought about a lot of stuff except that it was so easy for Matty to make new friends so fast. I don’t even know the names of the people who were sitting next to me in my classes yesterday.”
“What class did he meet this Alex person in?”
“Acting—and then again in Stagecraft.”
“Well—I think there’s your answer, Eddie. What classes did you have yesterday?”
“Religious Studies and Philosophy, Psychology, and Middle Eastern History.”
“Okay, and you probably sat in a regular classroom with rows of desks, teacher in front, blackboard behind teacher—right?
“Yeah, what’s your point?”
“So, I may not have ever taken a theatre class, but I bet they’re set up a lot more like our summer camp was—everybody sitting around real chill and casual—where you have a chance to get to know the people around you.”
“Of course! Fuck me. I’m such an idiot. And here I go and probably make Matty feel like shit about nothing. I haven’t even met this Alex person. I mean, I will—she’s going to be at the game Saturday.”
“Oh, cool! We all get to meet your doppelthinger.”
“Can I ask you something, little bro?”
“Sure, big bro.”
“How did you get to be so damned smart. You’re just a kid!”
“Yeah, but I’m a kid who spent a week this summer learning how to be a fucking awesome kid. It’s your fault—and Carly’s—but I like just blaming you.”
I took Nate into my arms and hugged him. “Thanks for being such a fucking awesome kid. It’s nice to know you have my back. I hope I can have yours when you need it.”
“You will. I know you will. And that makes me happy.”
The printer stopped chugging out paper, and Nate told me he’d be right back. When he returned, he had his laptop and a stack of about 20 colorful fliers for the school’s Gay/Straight Alliance.
“You’re already in the GSA? You’re just a Freshman.”
“Right. And it’s just the first week of high school, and I intend to be the school’s most fucking awesome Freshman. Now—I’m going back home to finish getting ready for school. Maybe you should call Matty and clear the air, so he doesn’t think something’s wrong?”
The little shit! He’s right again—and I wasn’t looking forward to this call. “Yes, as soon as you’re out the door. You don’t get to listen in on my talks with Matty.”
“Right—cuz you probably have phone sex all the time!”
“What the—how do you know about phone sex?”
“I’m just that fucking awesome!” He grinned and walked out the door while I stood in the middle of the living room with my mouth hanging open. Who the fuck is that kid?”
So, my first real day of college was pretty awesome when you look back on it. That is until I called Eddie to tell him about it. For some reason, he sounded pissed off that I made a new friend. I don’t understand why. It’s not like making a friend up here is going to compromise what he and I have—not one little bit. It makes no sense. Oh well, I’ll call him after practice and straighten this shit out. Somehow.
Turns out I didn’t have to wait. Parker and I were about to head down to breakfast when my phone buzzed with a call from Eddie.
“Hey, baby. What’s up?”
“I know it’s early, so I’ll make this quick. I’m sorry. I’m an idiot. I got jealous that you were able to make a great friend so quickly. I get it. Nate came over and knocked some sense into me. I don’t want you to worry. I love you—more than ever.”
“You’re okay then? We’re okay?”
“Better than ever. Call me when you get settled in tonight, and I’ll explain everything. I just didn’t want you to be worried about me—or us—on just your second day of classes.”
I let out a huge sigh. “You know me too well, baby. I love you.”
Parker pointed to the invisible watch on his wrist. “I gotta run. Talk to you tonight, k?”
“Okay, baby. Knock ‘em dead!”
Eddie ended the call, and I went down to the cafeteria with my roomie.
So my Tuesday classes were just like Eddie’s classes yesterday. Traditional classrooms and all that shit. The only class I had with Alex was Theatre History. We didn’t get a chance to talk at all until we were finished with the class. By then, I had to head over to practice.
I walked into the stadium feeling a helluva lot better than I did last night when I tried to get some sleep! I went into the locker room, and we all suited up. The best part about the first real practice of the week was that it was a no-pads practice. It was a day to learn some new plays that we were going to add to the gameplan for Saturday.
While I was changing, Devyn came up to me and thanked me for talking with him after the film session.
“Dude, you don’t have to thank me. We’re a team. If we don’t have each other’s back, we’re gonna be up the proverbial creek without a fucking paddle.”
Devyn smiled and patted me on the back. “Let’s go out and kick some ass, bro!”
We got over to the field, and the OC had those of us on the offense gather around him and his whiteboard. Oh—OC—that’s Offensive Coordinator. He’s like an assistant coach in charge of making sure we score as many points as possible.
Coach told us we had three new plays to get under our belts this week, on top of cleaning up some mistakes that we made Saturday. He diagrammed and explained the first play on the whiteboard and sent Devyn out with the first team to give it a shot.
It didn’t go well for Devyn, as the play ended up with a fumble in the backfield. Coach blew his whistle and sent me in to try it with the first team. I almost had it but handed the ball off too late, and the play ended up with lost yardage.
We went back to the whiteboard, where Coach pointed out our mistakes and sent Devyn back out. This time he nailed it, and the carrier was able to run off with the ball. As I went in to try it, I made sure to jump up and do a chest bump with Devyn, who had a huge grin on his face.
“Fuck, yeah! Your turn, Jacobs!”
This time I was able to make everything happen exactly the way Coach wanted it. I celebrated with my offensive line, and we made sure we pumped up the second team as they ran out to try the play.
Devyn and I stood on the sidelines and watched and pointed out a couple of the mistakes made as the second string tried the play for the first time.
“Brown! Fix the O-line mistakes. Jacobs! Help Wilson! Stay out there while they run it again—but stay out of their damned way!”
Devyn and I ran out to the field and pointed out the mistakes that made the play fall apart on their first try. It didn’t take me long to get the red-shirt quarterback in the right place and looked over at Devyn. Yes! That son-of-a-bitch was barking out orders and pumping the guys up to the point they were shouting out, “Yessir!” and “Give ‘em Hell!” as we backed up for their second run at the play.
Their second attempt was almost perfect, but Wilson didn’t go far enough into the pocket to hand the ball off to the right player. Devyn ran up to Wilson, gave him a couple of pointers, high-fived him, and ran back to me so they could run the play again.
Bam! It was perfect! Devyn and I celebrated with the guys on the field as we ran off to learn the next new play. Yes! Devyn was having fun! As we were running back to the sidelines, Coach shouted out to Devyn, “Brown! That’s what I want to see! Lead this Goddamned team like you’re supposed to! Attaboy!”
Devyn looked at me and smiled, “You’re right, Jacobs. This is so much fucking fun!”
The rest of the practice continued in the same way. It was awesome seeing Devyn grow into the leader the coaches (and I) knew he was. By the end of practice, the entire offensive squad was bouncing off the walls. You’d think we just won a game. But when you think about it, it was still a huge victory. The players now had the two leaders they could totally depend on. No matter who was on the field leading the offense, the players and the coaches knew they were in good hands.
I got home and showered. As soon as I dried off, I crawled into my bed with the laptop. I pulled up my Skype app and called Eddie. Perfect! He was on his laptop and in bed as well!
“Hi Babe, how was practice?”
“Awesome. Things are really falling into place. I think we’ll be ready for Saturday.”
“Sweet. I love you, ya know.”
“Yeah, I know—but I’ll never get tired of hearing those words come out of your sexy mouth!”
“So about this morning—”
“It’s okay—we’re all good, right?”
“Right. But you won’t believe how fucking smart—and cool—Nate has become. I mean, today—I totally forgot he’s just a kid.”
“Babe, Nate’s not so much a kid anymore. He started high school last week.”
“Yeah, but he’s still only thirteen. He skipped second grade—cuz the little fucker was so damned smart.”
“So, what did he say that made you see things a little differently?”
“He said it made sense that you met your new friend—”
“Right. Alex—in a class that was probably a lot less structured and a lot more laid back than any of mine. And then he said I would probably make my first college friends in a class set up like those.”
“Don’t you hate it when the little fucker is right?”
“Right? And then—when I made him leave before I called you later—I told him my calls with you were private, and he didn’t get to listen in. Do you know what he said??”
“God only knows—tell me!”
“He said it was because we probably had phone sex all the time now.”
“How the fuck does Nate know about phone sex?”
“Hell, he and Simon probably have Facetime sex since you were so adamant about them not having sex until they were older.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me. Hell, nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to Nate.”
“Now, you can tell me to butt out if you want, it’s okay—but maybe you should ease up on him a bit. I mean, he’s definitely shown both of us that he’s way mature beyond his years.”
“What? I should just tell him it’s okay for him and Simon to have sex now?”
“No. Just don’t mention it again. And trust that he’s going to come to you if there’s anything he needs advice on—especially since he’s turning out to be so damned good at giving it!”
“That works. I’m totally good with that. I love you, Baby.”
“Yeah? And speaking of Facetime sex—”
And all is good with the world once again. Do you have any idea how sexy my boy is when he plunges that rubber dick into his hot-as-fuck ass? He still moans, and his eyes still do that cute roll-into-the-back-of-his-head thing when it hits his magic spot. But fuuuuuuuuuuuck! When Eddie Hamilton—future minister, mind you—starts talking dirtier than any porn I’ve ever seen, it doesn’t take long at all for me to nut all over the place!
Damn! I gotta get to a store and get some more sheets! I only brought three sets with me, and I’ve already messed up two since Sunday!
Just had another amazing bit of Matty time. I just finished cleaning up my mess when I started telling Matty about the bizarre day I had.
Donald and I only had two classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But since they only met twice a week, they were 90 minutes long. Our 9:00 class was History of Islam. Funny, we had two different approaches to the class. Donald wanted to get it done and over with. I couldn’t wait to learn about another religion!
On the way in to campus, I hooked my Spotify up to the Bluetooth in my 4Runner, and we were enjoying our coffee and jamming to Hamilton. By the time we got to school and parked, Donald-Fucking-Harper found a Broadway musical he was totally into! Yes!!
Once our first class ended, we had three hours before our next class. Donald had Economics, and I had my ASL class. We decided to head to the bookstore to get the books we needed so far and hope that if we showed someone our schedule, we would be able to get what we needed for our upcoming class.
Well, shit! The lines at the bookstore were ridiculous! It took us almost two hours to get through. The good news was that I was able to purchase electronic copies of my books and a quick lesson on how to download them onto my iPad. The only book I needed a physical copy of was for my ASL class. I went ahead and got it and threw it into my backpack for later.
Donald, on the other hand, didn’t have a tablet of any kind. I hated the thought of him lugging all those books around every day, so I looked around and found a ten-inch Android tablet that was compatible with the textbooks he needed.
He wasn’t happy when I told him I was going to get it for him as a thank-you gift.
“What the fuck? Thank you for what?”
“Think about it, Donald. Neither one of us would be here if it weren’t for you. You were such a big help in my decision about my major. I seriously don’t think I would have gone through with it if you hadn’t said the shit you said.”
“But you already thanked me by giving me a place to live.”
“Nope! Dad did that. Please let me do this. Nothing would make me happier than to see you put all those heavy books back on the shelves.”
“Turning around and seeing Matty would make you happier.” The fucker gave me a shit-eating grin. “You know I’m right.”
“Of course, you’re right. But that’s not going to happen—so I’m going to buy this tablet. Then I’m going to hand it to you while you’re putting all that shit back on the shelves. Finally, we’re going to the e-book desk and load it up with the books you need.”
“But it’s too much, Eddie. I just can’t—”
“You know that’s not an issue here. Don’t even try to play that card. So—when’s your birthday?”
“Nope—that’s not going to work.”
I pulled out my phone and started scrolling my contacts. “I’ll just call Dad and find out.”
“Okay! Okay! September 24.”
“Perfect! Happy birthday—a few weeks early.”
“Fuck. Okay—but I’m paying you back someday—somehow.”
By the time we got Donald’s books squared away on his new tablet, it was time to head to our afternoon classes. Donald hugged me before we went our separate ways. We agreed to meet at the Starbucks in the student union when we were done with class so we could head back to the house.
I made it to the Language Arts building with just a few minutes to spare. I walked into the ASL classroom and was shocked. There were only twelve chairs in the room, and they were set up in a circle. There was only one seat left—two chairs away from the professor’s desk.
To my left was a way-too-bubbly girl who smiled and introduced herself. God! She practically giggled when she spoke! Oh well—I guess it takes all kinds to make up this world! To my right was a totally cute boy. Now, don’t get all excited or worried. He looked to be not much taller than Nate. Totally not my type. But he had this beautiful light brown hair that was straight and parted on the side.
He looked at me and smiled. “Hi! I’m Conner Cooper. I’m the TA for the class.” He signed as he spoke. It was actually beautiful. But, God! Conner had the deepest green eyes and a beautiful smile.
“Very nice to meet you, Conner. I’m Eddie Hamilton, and can I just say—your signing is beautiful.”
“Thanks!” He smiled and kept staring at me. “Wait! You look just like one of the guys from a YouTube video from a couple of years ago!”
I blushed and leaned in to whisper in his ear, “You’re right, it’s me. Just don’t make a big deal out of it, okay?”
Conner pushed me away and smiled. “That won’t work. I need to see you speak so I can read your lips!”
“No fucking way! Oh! Shit! Sorry! Oh, God. I had no idea, Conner. You totally have a beautiful voice, too.”
“I was ten when I got pretty sick and lost my hearing. I already knew how to speak. It was a tough transition, but I worked hard—and here I am!”
“Oh, and yes—that’s me on YouTube.”
Well, shit! Conner started to tear up. “You and your boyfriend were such an inspiration to me. I hope I can sit with you sometime and tell you how the two of you literally changed my entire life.”
“I would love to sit with you. Are you busy after class? I’m meeting my roommate at Starbucks in the student union.” I smiled and added, “My treat!”
“You don’t have to do that, Eddie.”
“I would love to do that—especially after making such an ass of myself in front of you!”
Conner grinned and said, “At least you didn’t start yelling at me when you found out I couldn’t hear!”
“Nooooo! People really do that shit?”
“I’m afraid so, young man.” I looked up and blushed. The professor had taken her seat, and I hadn’t even noticed. “Shall we begin?”
The professor introduced herself—and signed her introduction. “Good afternoon. My name is Madelyn Hamby. Welcome to ASL Fundamentals!”
She started off by introducing Conner to the rest of the class and explained that he needed to be facing you when you spoke to him so he could read your lips. She added that in all her years of working with the hearing impaired, Conner was far and above the best lip reader she has ever had the privilege of working with.
“Now, the first thing I like to do with a new class is finding out why each of you chose to take an American Sign Language class for your foreign language credits. So please, when it’s your turn, tell us your name and share your reasons with the class. And please, look at Conner when you speak. He will sign your response to the rest of the class.” She looked at me and asked me to go first.
“Well, my name is Eddie Hamilton. I’m a Religious Studies major, and I’m planning to attend seminary when I graduate. I’m going to be a pastor at my dad’s church. I wanted to learn ASL so that I might be available to more than just my hearing worshipers. I have a lot to say to the world, and the more people who hear—or see—my message, the better.”
“Thank you, Eddie. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that particular reason—beautiful. Just beautiful.”
As the rest of the class spoke, their reasons for taking the class were as varied as the people who were sharing. There were a few who wanted to learn the language because of family members who had recently lost their hearing. Some took it because it was the only available language course, and they needed the credit to graduate. A couple of people had the balls to say they took it because they thought it would be an easy class to get through. Conner and Ms. Hamby would look at each other and smile. I have a feeling that those people might be in for a surprise!
By the time we got through the group, Ms. Hamby announced that this was the one and only session that was going to end early. She told us to make sure we got our textbook and assigned us the ASL alphabet. She wanted us to learn as much of it as possible. We would be spending the next class learning and drilling. We couldn’t do anything else until we had a good grasp of it.
As I was packing up my stuff, Conner touched my shoulder and said he would love to have a cup of coffee with me. We headed to the student union and were there in less than five minutes.
It was strange, not talking while we were on our way to the student union. I mean, he needed to see my mouth so he could read my lips. Nope—not gonna work—unless I wanted to end up on my ass in the middle of the sidewalk!
We got to the Martin Student Union in no time at all and made a beeline to Starbucks. Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of the over-priced corporate coffee conglomeration, but that all changed when Eric made us do the drive-through one afternoon. He told me I had to try their new Cold Brew, and that it was the best you could get.
So I tried it and was immediately hooked. We walked up to the counter, and I ordered my standard—Trente Cold Brew with sugar-free vanilla and a splash of heavy cream. Conner put his hand on my shoulder, and I turned to face him. I told him what I ordered and asked me if it was any good.
I told Conner it was the only thing I ever ordered at Starbucks and that this was the only place I would get a cold brew. He smiled at me and turned to tell the cute little barista boy that he would have a vente version of the same thing.
We grabbed a table and sat across from each other. Conner had a big smile on his face. “Thanks for not freaking out when I moved you around so I could see you speak. That’s kind of how I roll—if I need to see you, I’ll touch your arm and guide you around. Same goes for you, by the way. If you need my attention, just touch my arm and you’ll get all of my attention.”
"Be right back, Conner.” I went to pick up our drinks and had a wonderful feeling.
When I got back to the table, he told me that the next time the drinks were on him. I returned his smile and agreed.
We had an hour to kill before Donald showed up. We laughed and shared some of our experiences from high school, and he would tell me how different things were going to be now that I was in college.
Every few minutes, Conner would stop talking, and I would catch him looking into my eyes. I didn’t want to make this uncomfortable for him. I mean, even if I was single, I wasn’t attracted to him at all in a physical way—well, except for his eyes. Conner Cooper probably had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen on any human being.
“I have to ask, Eddie. If it’s too personal, just let me know, okay?”
“Of course. Ask away, Conner!”
“That guy you were in that video with—”
“Yes. Matty. Are you two—um—still together?”
“Yes, we are. And you should know I never get tired of talking about him. He’s up at App State—backup quarterback on the football team.”
“Wow! That’s awesome. How long have you two been together?”
“Nineteen years, when I think about it.”
“Our parents were best friends, and we were born a day apart. We’ve been as close as two people could be since the day we were born. We even grew up living next door to each other.”
“That’s incredible! Wait—you said ‘were.’ They’re not anymore?”
“His parents have both passed away. Our family took him in.”
“And that’s when you guys—well, got together together?”
“Exactly. We had been hiding our feelings for at least a year—probably more in my case. It all just kinda came out in the open that first night.”
“God! That’s fucking romantic as Hell. I want that. I want to find a boy who won’t be freaked out with a gay deaf boy. I’m pretty sure I have the same equipment, and it’s in great condition. I don’t see what the problem is.”
“And, by the way, you’re cute as fuck. Trust me, there’s someone out there for you—and he’ll just show up out of thin air when you least expect it.”
“Oh, I know. I do believe that. When I first saw you, I was hoping you might just be him.” Conner laughed. “I mean—look at me. I’m a little guy—I’m just shy of 5’6”. I’m totally drawn to taller, more muscular, athletic types. You kind of fit that bill to a tee.”
“I really am flattered, Conner. That’s so sweet of you to say that.”
“It’s not that I want someone to take care of me. I just happen to be drawn to that type of boy. I learned a long time ago how to take care of myself—mainly out of necessity. But I’m not at all effeminate, but let’s face facts—I’m not the butchest apple on the tree.”
Ha! That cracked me up—and my laughing got Conner going. We were both laughing our asses off when Donald showed up behind me. Conner stopped laughing when he looked up and saw the dude standing behind me.
“Hey, Eddie.” Donald sat in the chair next to me, so we were both sitting across from Conner.
I turned to face Conner. “Conner. Conner Cooper. He’s the TA in my ASL class.”
“Already kissing up for grades?”
Conner started to laugh at our banter. I touched his arm to get his attention. “This is Donald Harper, my roommate.”
Conner held out his hand, and Donald shook it. Talk about weird. I never saw that look on Donald’s face before! It was almost soft—gentle even. As I saw him mouth the words, I was thinking them at the same time—What the fuck?”
“What the fuck what?” Conner still had that silly grin on his face.
“I—um—I didn’t say anything.”
Conner spoke and signed, “You didn’t have to say it out loud. I read lips.”
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Donald—Donald Fucking Harper—starts signing and having a total conversation with Conner Fucking Cooper.
What. The. Fuck?
WTF?? Sometimes I think I just might be a sick, sick man! What's going on with Donald Harper? And how the heck does he know ASL? Really? I wasn't planning on throwing a major curve ball until at least chapter 8! Oh--one curve ball I promise not to throw--Eddie and Donald will NOT--EVER--HAVE SEX! Never!
And little brother Nate! Nate! God, I love this kid! He's getting more and more confident and is turning into a bit of a smart ass! The good kind, though!
So--Alex and Eddie meet in the next chapter at the Wake Forest football game. Gosh--I wonder what Donald will be doing in that big, empty house--all by himself?
Keep those cards and letters coming! I love your messages and comments more than you know! They keep me motivated and may or may not be part of the reason is suddently becoming more interesting (at least to me)!