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Fall Anthology 2023 - Leap of Faith Due Sunday 10/1! ×
    Geron Kees
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

My Crimson Year - 5. Chapter 5

The night of the play came. I was nervous all day at school, and at football practice after; but as we met backstage to begin our first night as a team, I felt a weird kind of calm coming over me. I think because I was feeling that it was ready to happen, that it was almost over. In a way, I was excited. We'd put a hell of a lot of work into this, and rehearsed our asses off. And the play did look like it was going to be good.

We'd all peeked out into the theater as the seats filled. The hell with word-of-mouth from this performance filling the place tomorrow night. It looked like it was going to be full this night.

My wardrobe for the play was made up of my own clothing from home. Donnie and the others, too. We were just supposed to be kids, wrapped up in a brief and somewhat magical moment in life. My chief complaint was with the makeup. We all wore this red lipstick, so that our mouths would be visible from afar. Up close it was obvious that we had it on; but even from the distance of the first row our mouths looked pretty normal. I'd already tested this earlier by walking a way back from Donnie and looking for myself.

Mrs. Zimmerman said it was important that the audience see who was speaking, and lips became colorless under the bright lights, until those in the back of the theater could hardly tell who was saying what. My eyes were also shadowed with light blue to make them look larger, and really blue from a distance. That was my magical quality, I guess, as no one else had it. Donnie smirked at me after it was put on; and whispered that I was really hot that way. I just puckered my lips at him, to remind him that I wasn't the only one.

But it was Ellie Caprically who got us both. We hadn't worn the make up in rehearsal, and once it was on for the performance, there was no hiding it from the rest of the cast. Jeff and the other lucky fuckers that got to stay behind the scenes and do stuff smiled at us, but didn't say anything, thankfully. But Ellie wasn't the sort to stay quiet when she saw something worth commenting on.

"Oh my god!" she breathed, coming up to us backstage. "You guys are prettier than I am!"

We were standing by the prop room, near the door into the hallway. As we were wearing our own clothing, Donnie had taken the opportunity to put in a plug for the team, and was wearing the league champ shirt from the previous year. Mrs. Zimmerman had looked askance at that, but had wisely decided not to add to her worries that night by arguing over the stuff we'd decided to wear.

Ellie whipped out her cell phone, and pointed the lens at us. Donnie and I both held up our hands in front of our faces. "Stop it, Ellie!" I said.

She came a little closer. "Come on, guys. Don't you want to remember this? It's really cute."

Donnie and I looked at each other. Actually, he was really cute with red lipstick on. I grinned at him, and he must have been thinking the same thing.

"Okay," I said, dropping my hand. "Just one."

She took four. Girls!

But I'm glad she took them. I do have the pictures now, along with all the ones that Mrs. Zimmerman took backstage, and that my sister Dottie took from the front row, sitting there next to my mom and dad, and Donnie's mom. And, the ones that Greg took from the same row, sitting there beside Junie. Sometimes, the view of our lives that others have are the most special ones to remember.

The lights went down, and Mrs. Zimmerman went out into a spot and welcomed the audience and described the play.

The Boy With the Magic Fingers is a very straightforward play, for the most part. It opens with Cody and Cecil racing along on their bicycles during a bright summer day, talking and laughing like any guys might do. For this scene we used exercise bicycles, with the bases hidden by a mock-up of shrubs. Donnie and I were in a focused spot, with darkness all about us, bright only where were, out in the summer day.

We are speeding along, talking about all the things that serve to introduce our characters to the audience. What's going on at home, what our friends are doing, what girls we have been exchanging smiles with lately. The characters are straight, of course, but we didn't let that bother us!

The scene runs a little over four minutes, and we are talking excitedly about what we want to do in the coming week, when Cecil suddenly yells, "Look out!" The spot fades quickly to darkness, and special effects plays the sound of a horrendous crash.

When the light comes back up, we're in a hospital room. Cody is laying in the bed, his head wrapped in bandages. His mom and dad - and of course, Cecil - are there with him.

"What happened?"

Bill Blakely, who was playing my dad, gives me a solemn look. "You were hit by a car, son. It came out of nowhere." He turns to Cecil, smiles, claps him on the shoulder. "Cecil called 911. It might have saved your life."

Melissa Tomfridge, who plays Cody's mom, looks worried and holds Cody's hand. "Your head was injured, honey. We have to wait and see how much."

So, the stage is set for what comes next.

Cody recovers, and goes home. But he is changed. He keeps commenting that the world somehow looks different, but when people ask him how it looks different, he just shakes his head and cannot say. At first, he seems elated, but then it becomes wearying as he realizes that no one can see the things he sees, and he cannot explain them in any way that makes sense. People look at him like he's not right somehow, and even his parents begin to treat him like he's sick. He becomes moody and quiet, and of course that change gets noticed, too.

In the home where Cody lives is an old piano, sitting in a corner, unused, a place for potted plants and framed photographs, and not much else. One day he and Cecil are there at the house, and Cecil is hinting that he knows something is bothering Cody, and, well, can he help? Cody smiles, understands that Cecil wants to help, but still cannot put into words just what it is that is bothering him.

They are sitting on the sofa, and Cody is staring at the old piano.

Originally, we were going to use the prop baby grand that sat to one side of the stage, and sit the old upright behind it so that I could play it. But it looked really awkward that way, and I told Mrs. Zimmerman that most people that might have an old piano sitting around their house were likely to have an upright and not a grand, anyway. She agreed, and we moved the grand offstage. It was far lighter than it looked, being hollow, and us kids got it out of there without a problem.

But maintenance was called to move the upright up onto the stage. It had been tuned, and I didn't want us dropping it or bouncing it around trying to move its much heavier bulk into place.

Anyway, Cody is staring at the piano, and Cecil is talking away. Suddenly, Cody gets up and walks over to the piano, and lays his hands on the cover over the keyboard.

"Something wrong?" Cecil asks, getting up to come over with Cody.

Cody shakes his head, moves a few potted plants and framed photos, and opens the cover. He pulls out the bench, and sits down. Cecil looks at Cody strangely, but then just shrugs, and sits down next to him.

"What are we doing, Cody?"

"Just looking."

Cody runs his fingers up and down the keys, just making noise. Cecil watches, wondering.

"It makes sense," Cody suddenly says.

"What does?" Cecil asks.

Cody grins at him. "Everything."

And he drops his hands, and - at first slowly, but then with ever increasing speed, he starts linking notes, making chords, finding order where there was none before. And then he looks at Cecil and grins, and says, "I see it now!"

Cecil just looks at him. "What do you see?"

Cody laughs. "This!" And then he launches into Old Time Rock and Roll, by Bob Seger. I picked that for the first song because it's very recognizable, and very lively, and it's kind of a shock to the audience to hear this suddenly come blasting out.

When the piano finally crashes into silence, Cecil just stares at Cody. "I didn't know you could play," he says, in an awed voice.

Cody just shrugs, looking a little surprised himself. "Neither did I."

What follows becomes a journey, as Cody gets through his days at school and with his friends, and then comes home every day and sits at the piano. His family first marvels, and then wonders, and then worries over Cody's sudden new talent. But he can only shrug, and say, "It's just music, mom," which does nothing to allay their fears.

Cody gets taken to doctors, and then specialists, and finally winds up in the office of Dr. Sally Marshal, played by Beverly Booth, who listens to the story, reads all of the reports of the many doctors who have come before her, and even listens to Cody play.

"You never touched a piano before your accident?" she asks.


"What do you think it is?" Cody's mom asks.

Dr. Sally has seen and heard more about the human condition than she cares to recall. "I think it's wonderful," she says.

Cody's dad looks surprised. "Really? But...what should we do about it?"

Dr. Sally just smiles. "My professional opinion is that...you go with it."

Cody's parents look at each other. "Go with it?" Cody's mom asks.

"Yes. Go with it. Let him play. Let him expand, and evolve." She bends forward. "It's a gift. Let him enjoy it."

So, they do.

But you know how people talk, especially kids. Word gets out. A short interview by the local TV station goes viral online, and the next thing you know, everybody wants to interview Cody and listen to his magic fingers. The family is at first taken aback by all this attention, but as the offers for interviews come with dollar amounts attached, they find it hard to resist them, especially as - at least at first - Cody is eager to take them.

Everybody knows that fame has a cost, right? Cody's life is slowly taken over by his gift. He finds he has less and less time for everything else, including his friends. Including his best friend, Cecil. Cecil becomes a sad face at the edge of the crowd, looking inward, waiting and hoping that things will pass. Cody's life becomes a series of set pieces where he pounds out piano with great joy - the act of playing does make him feel wonderful - but these pleasant moments do not offset the increasingly gray areas of Cody's life where he is feeling lonely and empty.

He begins - at first unconsciously, to act out, having small temper tantrums, and then larger ones. And then the anger spills over into his waking thoughts, and he has a screaming fit that cannot be missed. His parents, suddenly realizing that he is being overcome, start declining the offers, closing the doors, not answering the telephone. Despite the huge surge in public interest in the boy who was struck by a car and became a sudden piano demon, the public has a short memory, and - slowly - the offers slack off, and the phone stops ringing.

This is a pretty simple recounting of what could have been a really complicated story. It was written for the middle school crowd, but really could have been a high school play. I guess what kept it from being overly mature was that a lot what could have been said is left to be inferred by the audience. Some things are best left that way, really. It gave the play many meanings, depending on who you were when you watched.

In the finale, Cody is in bed one night, and has a dream. Here are the mists, and the cool lights. In the dream, he is playing the piano - the Queen piece that mom helped me create - and he is smiling and elated. The joy he gets from playing is evident. But as he finishes, and the music goes away, so does his smile. He gives out a sob, and lowers his head to the keyboard.

The eerie background music slowly comes up, and suddenly, Cody hears a voice. It's his own voice.

I recorded the voice myself, and it was played back through the sound system and paused in all the right places by Ellie, who did an amazing job with it. I really sounded like I was talking to myself. Anyway, what happens is that my voice offers Cody a chance to trade his gift - trade away all the joy he has been feeling at the music that had come into his mind and his heart - in order to get back his old life. In order to get back the comfort of just being another kid at school, the comfort of being able to go places and not be pointed at and talked about. The comfort of not being unusual, and remarked upon, and different. And the comfort of having his old friends back, especially Cecil.

In other words, I offered the old me back...to myself.

There's all sorts of stuff someone could do in a situation like this. Argue. Negotiate. Plead. Yell. Even scream.

But what I do is smile, and say, "Cecil."

Yeah, it's hammy. I didn't write it. But it is a little cool the way it talks about friendship, and makes you think about what's really important in life. I guess it's kinda aimed at parents as well as kids, so that both know that any one thing that is allowed to run away, to take over your life, costs you with everything else. It's about weighing the price of things, and in that respect, if does make you think.

Cody gets up out of bed. He hears Cecil calling him. Up until that point the bed is softly lit, with a window framed behind it, and the moon showing through.

But then a spot comes on, a soft one, but it looks bright in comparison. Cody goes and stands in the middle of it.

"Cody?" The voice is disembodied, distant.

Cody looks about the room, eagerly. "Cecil?

"Man, I miss you, Code."

"I miss you, too, Cecil."

That's where the music in the background gets soft, and less eerie, and where Donnie gets lowered by the wire from the pulleys above. The spot brightens briefly as he and Cody stand and look at each other a moment, and then move forward to embrace each other, and then the spot slowly goes dark again.

"Are you back, Cody?" you hear Cecil ask, softly, as the lights go down. "Really back?"

"Yeah," Cody replies. "I'm really back."

Except that, when Donnie got lowered, he couldn't get the hook undone. He's just supposed to reach around to his back a moment, undo the hook, and let it go. Jeff, and Mike Latrell, who are up on the catwalk running things, are supposed to whisk the wire back before the spot briefly brightens. But when Donnie touched down, there wasn't enough slack in the cable for him to get the hook off the loop on the back of the harness he was wearing under his shirt. The guys above are looking straight down, and from their perspective they can't tell exactly what's happening below. So, Donnie touched down, and stepped forward, his hand still behind his back, working to loosen the hook. Jeff and Mike thought the cable was free, and started to haul it back up. Donnie suddenly came up on his tiptoes, and I saw the look of horror on his face.

So, I stepped forward then, a second or so early, and took him into the hug. All that weight clued Jeff into the fact that the wire was still attached, and he frantically put some slack back into it. I had my hands behind Donnie, so I could feel that happen, and I got the hook undone and felt it suddenly pull away.

My sister Dottie told me later that, from out in the audience, she could see something weird flutter away from Donnie's back. The hook and wire were colored a matte black, so they were really hard to see. Most people missed the small fuck up, and it wound up not mattering at all.

When the lights come back up for the final scene, me and Donnie are on our bikes again, pedaling along, laughing and carrying on. It's almost like the very first scene, where we are free and life is just fun. After a couple of moments of this, Cecil gets a wild hair up his ass and takes off, challenging Cody to a race. The lights go down as the two bikes are pulled forward out of the scene, accompanied by me and Donnie whooping and laughing.

It's kind of stupid, but also, kind of cool.

I remember thinking that this was a pretty good play, after all, that night. And the next night was sold out, and we wound up doing it again the two nights the following week as an encore before moving on to something else. So, I was surprised one day on stage while we were working on the new project, when Mrs. Zimmerman's cell rang and she stepped away to answer it. Acoustics on a stage are a little different than in a lot of places, and I wound up being able to hear her side of the call.

At first it was just hi, how are you doing? But then the play must have come up, because Mrs. Zimmerman laughed, and I saw her nod. "Yes, Magic Fingers was a surprise for all of us. The kids picked the play, and you know how heavy-handed it is. But it's aimed at kids, so I guess it has to be a little over the top. And my class did a simply wonderful job with it, and made it special. We did two repeat performances the following week, to fill the demand from people that wanted to see it. And hear it, of course."

Heavy-handed? I knew what that meant. And I had to think, well, was it?

Maybe. Yeah, I guess it was. It kind of slapped you in the face with the need to weigh the importance of things like fame and ability against the needs of the people in your life. But...I had liked that play. No, I had loved it.

I think I especially loved that play because I loved Donnie, and for me, Cody walking away from Cecil was me walking away from Donnie. I just couldn't do it.

I decided not to hear any more of Mrs. Zimmerman's call, and walked away to find Donnie. He was over talking to Ellie and Jeff about something, and I came right up behind him and put my arms around him. I could feel him tense in surprise, and I could see also the looks of surprise on the other kid's faces.

"Who's that?" Donnie asked. I could tell by the sound of his voice that he was smiling.

I had to laugh. And so did Ellie and Jeff. "Who do you think it is?" I returned.

"That you, Cody?"

I nodded, and pushed my nose gently into the hair behind one ear. "Yes, Cecil. It's me."

He put his hands atop mine, where they lay around his waist, and squeezed them fondly. "Wondered where you got off to. Glad to have you back."

I hugged him gently, and nodded.

* * * * * * *

The final game of the football season was a home game. We were playing the Hornets. The whole time we had been creeping up the win chart, so had they. They arrived early, and climbed down off their bus looking like they were ready to kill and eat some Crimson, which was pretty much what we looked like, I think, except the food for us was a bunch of crummy bees.

For this game, the school had let the band come out, and they played some stuff to warm up the crowd and get them going. It was a cold January day, but the sun was out, and there was no wind, and it was almost comfortable sitting here on the bench. I felt strangely calm, and I think Donnie did, too; but the rest of the team was shitting marbles. Jeff Nabely couldn't sit - he kept pacing back and forth in front of the bench - and Mikey kept telling him to light somewhere.

Terry Colsky and Will Brandon were arguing quietly over something, but laughing, even a little crazily. And the others were all busy jiggling legs and making faces and looking a little hyper. Next to us, Greg sat next to Junebug, and I kept seeing them holding hands between themselves out of the corner of my eye. I was doing the same thing, squeezing Donnie's hand for comfort, so I got that that was very satisfying, emotionally. If there hadn't been a short wall around the bench and a roof on posts above our heads we couldn't have gotten away with it - we'd be seen from the bleachers.

Which were fairly full, by the way.

Across from us, Leann Travers and her little glee squad were stretching and jumping to warm up. We didn't have cheerleaders in middle school, but we did have the glee club, and Leann and her friends there had volunteered to come out in the cold and provide moral support. Behind them, a tarp was draped over the big team sign. At the halftime show, after the band played, the girls would do some organized yelling - real cheers were a little outside their normal activities - and then whip the tarp off the sign.

It was just two sheets of plywood, laid end-to-end and held upright by a right-angle structure of two-by-fours. The face of the sign had been painted crimson. Across that blood-colored field, in large, yellow letters, were the words, Go, Crimson! Next to the exclamation point was a demon face, painted by Mr. Latisse, the art teacher. It was meant to be scary, I think, but was actually a little goofy, if you stopped and looked at it long enough. Most of us didn't, anymore.

It was inspiring, in its own way, and was part of the spirit of the team.

Brother, you want to talk about some tough mothers, that's the Hornets. They scored right off and held us at bay all through the first quarter. In the second we got close enough to kick a field goal, but that still left us four points behind at halftime. We went to the bench and sat, and I think we were all feeling that this might be the game where we got our asses handed to us.

"These guys are good, and they wanna win," Mikey said, walking up and down in front of us. He was hyped, and we all could see it. Donnie was leaning forward next to me, following Mikey's every move. He was hyped, too. I patted his knee, and told him to relax.

He grinned at me. "Relax? All my hair is standing straight up under my helmet! Who the hell can relax?" But he raised and lowered his shoulders underneath his pads a few times, turned his head side-to-side, grinned at me, and settled his weight against my upper arm. I couldn't help grinning back.

"We need to keep these guys off of Mikey better," Greg said, shaking his head. "We've had more incomplete plays this game than in the whole rest of the season. One of these times one of these refs is gonna call Mikey on dumpin' the ball."

Mikey laughed. "I haven't thrown any away yet. I just didn't get them close enough to Donnie or Andy to count." He nodded. "These guys are vicious, all right. But so are we."

Leann and her bunch came out and started their jumping and yelling, which was kind of fun to watch. The people in the stands seemed to think so, too - or, at least those that had come to root for our side. Leann had a lot of energy, I have to admit, and her group put on a good show.

They got to the part where they cheered us on, and then Leann grabbed the edge of the tarp over our team sign and ran with it, pulling it away.

It took me a moment to realize that something was different. I was still a little wrapped up in my own thoughts, and it wasn't until Donnie grabbed my arm that I refocused my eyes ahead.

The sign had changed. The face of it was covered end-to-end in what looked like cardboard, and a new motto had been written on it in red letters three feet tall. It said, very clearly:

Andy Colbert and Donnie Blydon are faggots!

There was a brief, unreal moment, like I lived on a world that swayed back and forth, and the entire thing was briefly swaying away from me. The sounds of the people in the stands diminished, the sun seemed to dim, and my eyesight kind of turned into a telescope as those damning letters jumped straight into my face.

Leann and her girls stood near the sign, just looking at it, obviously at a loss for what to do. I could see them looking over at us helplessly.

I was aware of Donnie standing up, and so I stood with him. And of Donnie walking out onto the field, so I walked with him. We walked out to the center, and stopped, just staring at the sign.

"Oh, Andy," Donnie breathed, and I could feel the horror in his voice. We stood there, just looking, while the world gyrated back and forth around us.

Suddenly, a shadow came up between us, and then I felt an arm drop around my shoulders. I looked, and it was Greg, and he had an arm around Donnie's shoulders, too. He squeezed, pulling us to him. Junie came out of nowhere and stood in front of us, between us and that sign, like he was defending us from what it said. For a full minute the four of us just stood there, facing down the world that now seemed to have suddenly decided to acknowledge us.

But then I felt more motion around me, and then, one by one, hands landing on my back and my shoulders; and then the whole team was there, all around us. We stood as a single group and stared at the sign, and I could feel all those hands on me, pressing, rubbing, just letting me know that they were there.

I looked, and there were hands on Donnie, too, and he was looking at me. His eyes were wet, but he was smiling.

We could hear people whispering, and a murmur from the stands that sounded angry. And some laughing, too. That came mostly from the Hornet's bench, and when I turned to look, a lot of them were pointing at the sign and laughing. But not all of them. There were a couple of guys on that bench that looked less than happy to see that sign. I stared at their faces, even as they stared at me.

I could feel a vibration in the ground beneath my feet, and a bunch of guys passed us on the other side, just running all out. I whipped my head back around to look.

No...they weren't all guys. I recognized Mike Latrell, and Bill Blakely...but also Melissa Tomfridge, and Beverly Booth, all from drama class. And...shit. A bunch of kids that Donnie and I knew.

And of course, right there in front was someone I definitely knew. Ellie Caprically.

They reached the sign, and Leann and the others moved away from it. Ellie and her bunch peered at the cardboard, and I could see them pointing at something; and then they were ripping the cardboard off, and with that came the letters. The words. Very quickly, the crimson reappeared, and then the yellow, and then the sign once again said, Go, Crimson!

The kids bent down and picked up the pieces of cardboard, tore them into smaller pieces, and carried them off. They waved and grinned as they went by, and I locked eyes with Ellie and nodded.

Mikey came around me, and pointed back at the stands. "Look."

All of us - the whole team - turned to follow his finger. My eyes took a moment to scan the bleachers, but I wasn't sure what I was looking for.

Mikey must have sensed that. "Top row, all the way over at the right."

My eyes went there, and I tensed.

Well, well, well. I should have known.

Dickie Ranshaw, Pete Nicks, and Hank Snowden were there, their faces lit in big smiles, laughing and carrying on, pointing at us, just having a grand old time.

Donnie swore. "You think they did this?"

Mikey made a rude noise. "Does a bear shit in the woods?"

That would be an affirmative.

I raised an arm, and pointed at them. Donnie saw me, and he raised his arm and pointed, too. And then the whole team was pointing.

Dickie and his bunch froze as they realized we were looking. That the whole team was looking. That the whole team was pointing. People in the stands saw us pointing. Quite suddenly, people began to turn, to look at where we were pointing. As all those eyes swung around to touch on Dickie and friends, their good humor simply vanished. Pete Nicks put a hand on Dickie's shoulder and said something, and Dickie nodded. He stood quickly, and so did Pete and Hank. They moved quickly to the steps, went down, and disappeared from view.

"I'm gonna poke that little shithead's eyes out with a stick," Donnie grated. His voice carried a note that alarmed me.

I shrugged out from under Greg's arm and went to him. "No, you're not. You're not getting into trouble. He's not worth it."

"Yeah, he is," Donnie insisted.

I moved closer to him. "No, he's not."

Donnie looked at me. I could see his anger, and his desire to get some payback. It wasn't just about what Dickie had just done, it was about everything. All the fears that Donnie had been suppressing, all the angers, suddenly there in one very glittery, very sharp moment. It's one thing just to hit someone, and another to contemplate the kind of mayhem I saw in Donnie's eyes.

Or, what I thought I saw. Donnie was a sweetheart, but even the nicest people have limits. I was not about to take chances.

I nodded, and lowered my voice. "You do something to him, they'll arrest you. They'll take you away." I leaned even closer. "They'll take you away from me."

I could actually see that sink in. Sink in, and make contact. He stared at me, and then he nodded, the fuse slowly going out. "Okay."

Mikey was still there, near me. "What are we gonna do about that?"

Now he was pointing at the Hornets, who were still laughing and pointing at our team.

Donnie's face grew grim again. "I vote we kill them instead."

Mikey grinned. "Okay. Sounds like a plan."

We broke up the group. Donnie and I patted the other guys on their backs, and thanked them. They mostly looked embarrassed, but they all grinned about it, too. The last thing that Donnie and I did was grab Greg and Junie, and form a little huddle.

"What's this about?" Greg asked.

"We love you guys," I said.

Greg looked quickly from Donnie to me. "And?"

"We just wanted you to know," Donnie said, grinning.

Greg looked surprised, but then nodded. "I do know."

I looked at Junie. "What about you?"

"I know it now," he said. "We love you back."

Donnie gave a theatrical sigh that would have made Mrs. Zimmerman proud. "Good. Then let's play some football."

The game resumed. As the lines formed up, some knucklehead on the Hornets side said, just loudly enough for us to hear. "This'll be easy. They're all a bunch of queers."

Man. Never say that to the guys with the ball, especially when those guys are pissed.

On the hut, our offensive line simply tore into the Hornets. They didn't just brush them aside, but they sure wore them out in a hurry. Donnie and I both were moving, and while I caught sight of a Hornet corner closing from my left, fucking Donnie wasn't even covered! The safeties had been alarmed by the number of our guys that pounded through the defensive line, and they moved in towards the action, and only one of the corners stayed on point with his job. The other had left coverage of Donnie to chase after Greg, who was whooping and making all sorts of crazy noises as he pelted downfield towards the goal with his hands clenched before him like he had the ball held close.

Donnie simply ran like the devil was chasing him, turned at just the right moment like he was telepathic, and picked Mikey's long pass clean out of the air and kept right on moving. It was simply beautiful to behold.

And suddenly, the game was ten-seven.

Momentum is an evil creature, and capricious as hell. When one side has it, it can mean a damn tough game for the other team. Clearly, the momentum had been with the Hornets during the first half; just as clearly, it had shifted to us now. Or rather, we had taken it.

Despite Dickie's intent to simply hurt Donnie and I to the core, what his actions had done was light a fire under our guys that simply wouldn't go out. If adrenalin was external, the smell of it would have been just everywhere. We weren't just mean and angry now, we were righteous. We won the game, 28-10. It was simply a killing, there in the second half. The Hornets tried to get things back their way, but we were simply not going to let them win, and they couldn't break that will.

The crowd went nuts. Or, our crowd did. People know a cause when they see one, and as the last two quarters had progressed, they had seen one. No one was sure what had happened with the sign, and we learned later that a lot of people in the stands thought the Hornets had had something to do with messing with the sign, and that we were making them pay for it. It only added to the weird atmosphere of the rest of the game, and did nothing to hurt us, as people yelled their heads off in support of the Crimson.

Afterwards, we walked down the Hornets line and shook hands. They were quiet, not even mad. Tired, and a little bewildered over what had happened. They mostly gave us quick handshakes, not even meeting our eyes.

But one guy grabbed my hand and gripped it, and when I looked at him more closely, I recognized one of the grim faces from the Hornet's bench. One of the guys who had not been laughing and pointing.

He looked at my name on the front of my jersey and nodded. "Colbert, huh?"

I nodded. "That's me."

He leaned forward, and his eyes looked into mine. "Good luck."

There were other things in that guy's eyes, things I recognized now. What he said took on some meaning, and I nodded, somehow knowing exactly who I was talking to. "You, too."

He smiled, and I smiled back. And it felt damn good, too.

So, for a second year in a row, we were league champs.

Next year would be high school, and a whole different game. Donnie and I wouldn't even be able to play - not league football, anyway. Not until our Junior year.

I was kind of finding out that I didn't mind that, either. A little bit of rest would be nice. We could still play football, just without all the complications built in.

It would mean more time to spend with Donnie.

His mom threw us a little party. My folks were there, and Greg's, and Junie's, as well as a few odd brothers and sisters. A lot of pizza got eaten, and we all talked a lot, and had a lot of fun.

What was not discussed was what had happened at the game. I caught my mom and dad both watching me a few times during the evening, and Donnie's mom watching us, too. But when her eyes touched on mine, she only smiled, and I didn't feel anything like anger coming from her to me.

Donnie invited me to stay over, and I said yes. I asked my folks right there, and they both said it was okay.

I kind of got that my folks would be talking to me when I got home - when the weekend was over. But for now, they were letting me have my time.

Eventually, the party ended, and people started to leave. My mom came over and gave me a big hug - way too big for just winning a football game - and told me she loved me. I was certain then that Dottie was right - it would be easier to tell my folks than I had imagined.

My dad came over and shook my hand, said he was just as proud of me as he could be - and then hugged me, too. Oh yeah. They knew.

Finally, Donnie's mom said goodnight, and then Donnie was closing the door of his room, and locking it.

We got undressed, and got into bed. I'd like to say that we made wild love, but it was actually a very gentle thing. Both of us felt kind of subdued, knowing what was coming with our folks.

After the sex, we just snuggled together under the comforter, and talked about telling our folks. The consensus was that it was time.

"It won't be bad," I told Donnie. "I just feel it won't."

He nodded. "Nope. You're right. I'm not worried." He smiled. "I want my mom to know, now."

Yes. I wanted my folks to know, too. Hiding is a tough way to live a life.

We lay there quietly, holding each other. I loved to feel Donnie against me, and I tried to imagine what it felt like to be him, feeling my skin against his.

Is touch the same for everyone? Is it as wonderful for his skin to feel me, as it is for my skin to feel him? It's a question for the world.

Both of them, actually, because there are two. There's the world we see and hear - the one outside of our heads. The one that knows about touch. It's a busy place, and populated with friends - and enemies - which comes down to people that like us, and people that don't. There are also the people that love us - far fewer in number - but by far the most important people of all. If you put all the people that love you and like you on a scale, and then place everybody else on the planet on the other side, somehow, magically, it all balances out.

And then there's the world that only we know, the one that exists inside. Exploring that one can be both the scariest and the most thrilling adventure of all.

But I've learned there's a way to make it easier. To make it better. The world inside us can seem deep with echoes, and even deeper with the darkness of difficult things. It's because we are there alone, and what's inside us is very large.

But like any space, it can be filled, and that is the key to exploring yourself.

Don't do it alone.

Just find someone special, someone that you love, and take them with you. You'll be amazed at how much better the journey becomes.

Trust me. It works.

Would I lie?


This story was based upon a picture challenge on another site. To see that photo:


Copyright © 2017
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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