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    Superpride
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Best Men - 6. Chapter Six

So, the burger patties Beth’s father began grilling at the backyard weren’t actually vegan, considering the amount of cheese he put both on and inside the patties. I also glanced at the ingredients on the burger-bun packaging which included dairy. I wasn’t complaining, though, since the few times I tried vegan food at some trendy restaurant in the city wasn’t the most pleasant experience I had. I was looking forward to eating these vegetarian burgers, especially since cheese always made everything better.

After the patties were cooked, we assembled our own burgers and ate them at a small, round table on the back porch. We didn’t talk as we consumed our food, but it was comforting since I was able to enjoy my dinner and appreciate the outdoor sounds like the birds chirping and the occasional breeze that rustled the windchimes hanging above the porch’s ceiling. Beth’s father asked a couple of times whether I was enjoying my burger, but after that we returned our focus to eating.

I ate two burgers and a small salad mixed with low-fat ranch before my stomach was tamed and I felt satiated. I offered to clean up, but Beth’s father insisted that I was the guest, so he and Freddy cleared the table instead. As Beth’s father washed the dishes, I looked into the living room and saw that the book club meeting was over with only Beth’s mother and Barbara remaining. Peering from the kitchen, I saw Beth’s mother covering her mouth with a hand and appearing unnerved by whatever Barbara was saying.

“Hey, Rick. Do you want another beer?” Freddy asked as he reopened the refrigerator.

Looking away, I said, “Oh. I’m okay. Thanks though.”

Removing the bottle cap with the same method I used earlier, Freddy said, “I managed to find one of the videos of your performance at Times Square. Very impressive. I wish I had that kind of talent.”

I smiled. “Thank you… I…I can show you how I move the marionettes since I brought one of them with me. With enough practice anybody can be good at it.”

“Nah, that’s fine,” Freddy said and took another swig of his ice-cold beer. “I have a bad track record of trying to learn new things, like trying to cast a fishing line, doing yo-yo tricks, and I even tried freaking knitting for a while, but I can never get the hang of anything.”

“That’s not true. You’ve been playing the acoustic guitar since you were ten,” Beth’s father said as he dried his hands with a kitchen towel.

“Dad…”

“What? It’s true. I don’t know why you’re ashamed of it just because you couldn’t learn how to play the violin like your sister.”

Sighing, Freddy finished the rest of his beer in one gulp before saying, “I’m going to bring my stuff inside the house now.”

Freddy tossed the empty beer bottle into the trashcan and left, leaving only his father and me in the kitchen.

“Don’t mind my son,” Freddy’s father said as he placed the kitchen towel on the counter. “He always felt…inadequate when growing up. Whenever he tried to do something like join his school’s basketball team, he always came up short.”

“Why? Did he only make second string?” I asked.

“More like third string. I used to play college basketball, and I guess he wanted to impress me by playing the sport as well. He just wanted my approval…but I never gave that to him.” Looking at me with sadness in his eyes, he continued, “My approval instead went to Elizabeth since she was the one who always got the better grades and learned how to play the violin among other things. And because of this, Freddy never felt he was good enough. Even today he’s still ashamed that he’s a police officer rather than in the FBI like was I, like he’s in the third string of his basketball team again...or playing the guitar rather than the violin… It’s my goddamn fault that Freddy thinks that way about himself. That’s why I want him to apply for the sheriff’s position, so he doesn’t have to feel inferior anymore.”

“Is there anything stopping him from becoming the town’s sheriff?”

“No. After talking with our current sheriff, he’s actually interested in Freddy being his replacement since he believes a city police officer has the perspective and experience that would help better this town… However, Freddy’s the one who needs to be convinced to take the job. He says he has…obligations back in the city. But I think it’s because he never liked moving into Beckett, and I’m sure he still holds resentment towards me for forcing him to leave his friends behind just because his old man was having a midlife crisis… He just needs some motivation, but that can’t be me… Anyways, look at me, unloading all of my problems onto you. I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re fine,” I said and offered him a reassuring smile.

“It’s good to see you back in Beckett, Rick. Will you be staying for long?”

“Unfortunately, no. I’m just here for your daughter’s wedding, and then I’ll return to the city right after.”

“I understand. Life in the city has many benefits…but so does a small town like Beckett. Hopefully, you’ll come back to visit us.”

“I…I’d like that.”

Freddy’s father patted me on the shoulder before opening the refrigerator to get a diet soda. Popping it open, he then drank it as he left the kitchen. I yawned and looked through the window above the sink to see that the sun had already set. Today somehow exhausted me, and I walked up the stairs to prepare myself for bed. However, when I saw bags stacked outside the door of Freddy’s bedroom, I knew things were going to become complicated.

Cautiously, I approached the bedroom and peeked my head inside. To my surprise, I saw Freddy sitting on the desk with my sketchbook in his hands. He was turning the pages, looking thoughtfully at the drawings contained inside before focusing his eyes on me. The expression on his face was unreadable. A moment later he placed it back on the desk before standing up.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to snoop,” Freddy apologized.

Biting my lower lip, I said, “No, it’s okay. I’m sorry I took your bedroom. I’ll sleep somewhere else if that’s what you want.”

“No worries,” Freddy simply said. “I’ll just stay in Liza’s room since her air conditioning works, unlike mine.”

I chuckled, but Freddy just gave me a stoic glance before looking around his bedroom. I looked down, not wanting my eyes to brush over any part of his body and giving myself away.

Feeling like I should end this awkward moment, I said, “So…you play the acoustic guitar. That’s great. Do you write your own songs as well?”

“No,” Freddy replied. “Someone else composed the music for me.”

“Cool. I’d like to hear you play your guitar some time.” Freddy furrowed his eyebrows, and I just said, “Only if you want to, of course.”

Freddy continued to stand by the desk as he looked at me. I felt like I was being probed by his eyes, reading my every movement.

“If you don’t mind, can you show me your marionette?” Freddy suddenly asked.

I was about to say yes, but first said, “Only if I can hear you play a song with your guitar.”

Freddy frowned, and I thought I screwed up, but then he said, “Fine. It’s a deal. You’re lucky I brought my guitar here… So, can I see?”

I nodded and walked to the corner of the bedroom where a cardboard box was placed which acted as a makeshift case for my marionette. Pulling my marionette up by the wooden bars, I then carried him to Freddy who had his head cocked to the side as he looked at my pride and joy.

“I’m assuming that’s a dragon,” Freddy said.

“Yup. His name is Snaggletooth. He’s actually the first marionette I ever created. I try to improve on his design whenever I can... Do you want to see him fly?”

“Oh…sure.”

I smiled and raised my hand that held the bars of the marionette. After positioning my fingers correctly, I moved the bars and Snaggletooth began flapping his dragon wings. He also bobbed his head up and down as well as opened and closed his mouth.

“Looks more life-like in person,” Freddy complimented as he watched Snaggletooth continue to fly. “And you learned this all by yourself?”

“I did with the help of some online videos.”

“Shit. That’s impressive. I needed a teacher to learn just the basics of how to play the guitar.”

“Well, it’s not that complicated to learn, unlike learning how to play a guitar.”

“Yeah, but you also made this marionette with your own hands, right?”

I nodded.

“See, I can never do that. I’m not talented like you, or like my sister. Before I got a teacher, it took me two months to figure out that I was holding the guitar the wrong way,” Freddy said, shaking his head.

“Well, I don’t think it matters whether a person has a talent or not. As long as you have the passion and determination to do something, then you can make it work even if you have a weakness. Agatha Christie, for example, had a learning disability that made it hard for her to spell correctly. But she became the best-selling author of all time regardless.”

Freddy just nodded as he looked down.

“And hey. You learned how to play the guitar anyways, didn’t you?”

“Sure, but I’m not great or anything. I’m just decent.”

“If so, then what’s stopping you from improving?”

Crossing his arms, Freddy’s eyes then looked up at me. “I just don’t have the time… I’d like to practice more often, but time is like money. There’s never enough of it.”

“I have to disagree. I think you do have the time, but you just don’t want to use it to play the guitar since you’re afraid you can’t improve and that you’ll be discouraged.”

“What makes you think that?” Freddy asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Because that was me for a time. Unlike what you think, I’m not naturally gifted with creating marionettes. I had to spend so many hours researching and experimenting, and after plenty of failed attempts, I finally managed to create Snaggletooth here. During the process, I had several moments when I felt completely discouraged and thought that I wasn’t getting anywhere. But I continued pushing myself, motivated by creating the final product.” Scratching my chin, I then said, “Maybe that’s what you need. A motivation. Something that will encourage you to start practicing your guitar skills again.”

“And what’s that motivation?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. What made you want to play the guitar in the first place?” I asked, already knowing the answer to that question. “That could be your motivation.”

Sighing, Freddy said, “Couldn’t play the violin even though my sister could, so I settled with the guitar. Not much motivation there.”

“Oh, come on. You’re acting like the guitar is somehow subpar when compared to the violin.”

“Think of it this way: no one goes to a concert just to hear someone play the guitar,” Freddy asserted.

“Yeah, but…”

“It’s all right, Rick. It’s not like I need to rediscover my passion for playing the guitar because I’m suffering from some kind of midlife crisis like my dad did.”

Curious by that statement, I decided to ask, “How is your relationship with your dad?”

Freddy seemed surprised by my personal question, which I understood since it came mostly out of the blue. “That’s…That’s not something I really want to talk about right now… Let’s just say I was closer to my mom, before we moved to Beckett and she clung to her bible.”

Freddy’s posture stiffened after providing that interesting piece of information, and I didn’t want to keep pestering him, so I dropped it.

“I always loved the art of acting and theatre,” I said, changing the subject, “but I could never step onto a stage and perform a monologue…so I have my marionettes do the performing instead.”

“What’s your point?”

“Maybe you can combine your guitar-playing skills with something else,” I suggested, a new idea forming in my head.

“That’ll be perfect…but like I said already, I’m not good at learning things.”

“It doesn’t have to something you’re good at. Just something that you’re also interested in. One of my friends back in the city loved action figures when he was a kid. He also loved the statues of ancient Greece and wanted to emulate the style, but he sucked at sculpting. Eventually, he got the idea to use old action figures and make them look like those Greek statues. He now has art exhibits dedicated solely to displaying his work, and he’s making a pretty good living out of it… Do you have any songs that you like?”

“Yeah. Who doesn’t?”

Smiling, I then said, “Have you ever considered covering those songs with your guitar?”

“Yes, I actually have. But that’s lame. I want to play songs that I didn’t overhear from the car radio.”

“Well, you just need it to help motivate you. Take one of your most favorite songs and try to play it with your guitar. You might change your mind, and then you can focus on playing on more serious music,” I advised.

Cocking his head to the side, Freddy said, “Why are you so insistent about me playing the guitar again?”

“I’m not. I just think it’ll be great for you to do something that you enjoy,” I said.

Freddy frowned. “You’re acting like we’re somehow friends now.”

“Well, no. We’re not friends…but I don’t mind if we become that.”

Freddy stared at me, with those brown eyes of his. “Thanks, but no thanks. You’re just my sister’s ex-boyfriend to me and befriending you will just be weird.”

“Oh…all right. I understand.”

Snaggletooth stopped moving a while ago, and I decided to place him gently on the desk, so I could work on him tomorrow.

“Your dragon looks cool, though,” Freddy said. “You said that’s the one you first created?”

I nodded. “He went through several redesigns, so don’t think he first came out this way.”

“Well, it’s still impressive.”

I just gave Freddy a small smile, and then a long moment of awkward silence stretched between us, and I looked at Snaggletooth, the ceiling, the floor, anywhere but back at Freddy.

Freddy then cleared his throat and said, “Well, I’ll be hitting the sack now.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Freddy walked out of the bedroom, and I checked my phone to see the actual time. I wanted to get up earlier, so I can jog, while the air was still cool.

“Hey. When do you want me to play the guitar?”

Looking up from my phone, I saw Freddy leaning against the doorframe. “Oh, you actually…”

“A deal’s a deal,” Freddy stated.

“Any time tomorrow if that’s okay.”

“That’ll work… Sleep tight, Rick.”

Freddy walked away, and I was left alone and felt tingles all over my body, but mostly in my chest. Knowing that the hardened police officer could play the guitar and that he was going to play it for me made me feel light on my feet. However, I had to remind myself that he was just doing this since I showed him my marionette. This was not at all a romantic gesture, or even a friendly one.

I guessed not being with anyone for more than two years was making me take every kind gesture that Freddy offered me like it somehow had a bigger meaning or intent. And knowing that he was gay made him into this fruit that felt so attainable, but tasting its flesh was only a dream since at the end of the day, Freddy was my ex-girlfriend’s brother. He was off limits based solely on that fact and that should’ve cleared my mind of any thoughts of Freddy and images of him without his shirt on… Then why am I getting a thrill from thinking about breaking those normative boundaries and just going for it?

Copyright © 2019 Superpride; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

15 minutes ago, long1jo said:

Wow the boys are so cute, I am sure Freddy has a crush on Rick but just denying it since he is ex of his sis

Dedicate next chapter to Freddys story as he goes to his bedroom to sleep

Don't let it go for too long, waiting for next chapter

Rick being his sister's ex-boyfriend certainly complicates things, but hopefully Freddy can look past that and see Rick as a person who has faced similar struggles that they can bond over if Freddy just opens up to him. More will be learned about Freddy as the story continues, and we'll see soon if Freddy has feelings for the blond puppeteer in the next chapter that will be posted soon. Thanks for commenting!

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21 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

Instead of having the conversation with Rick, Freddy's dad needs a long and frank talk with his son. And people do go to concerts just to hear a guitar.

Despite what Freddy said, Rick is chipping away the armor.

Freddy's father may have already had the conversation with his son, but seeing how closed off Freddy can be, it's going to take more talks before things begin to resolve. Perhaps he's looking for Rick to help his son's lack of self-confidence. Rick might be the person to do just that, already chipping away Freddy's armor bit by bit and hopefully it breaks soon since they really only have one month before the wedding. So, it's going to take some effort from Freddy as well if the armor is going to fall apart.

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3 hours ago, long1jo said:

Wow the boys are so cute, I am sure Freddy has a crush on Rick but just denying it since he is ex of his sis

Dedicate next chapter to Freddys story as he goes to his bedroom to sleep

Don't let it go for too long, waiting for next chapter

Yes, yes, yes!

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47 minutes ago, Tonyr said:

Yes, yes, yes!

More chapters are on the way soon that will delve deeper into Freddy's past and overall story that hopefully includes Rick as well. 😄

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Excellent chapter, I think that they all need to have some serious talks, especially between dad and son 

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On 10/22/2019 at 9:28 PM, drpaladin said:

Instead of having the conversation with Rick, Freddy's dad needs a long and frank talk with his son. And people do go to concerts just to hear a guitar.

Despite what Freddy said, Rick is chipping away the armor.

One of my favorite concerts was guitar concert. Guitarist had traveled and played concerts around world. 

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6 hours ago, Ylse said:

One of my favorite concerts was guitar concert. Guitarist had traveled and played concerts around world. 

Thanks for that informative comment! It can be assumed that Freddy only watches the concerts with violins and is totally oblivious to anything else.

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Depressed, insecure, low self-esteem cop. Hmmm. Really bad combination. Which target group is he taking his frustrations out on? Gang members? Suspected drug dealers? Jaywalkers? Skateboarders? People of Color? Visible religious minorities? Homeless people?

I see a class action lawsuit!

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7 hours ago, droughtquake said:

Depressed, insecure, low self-esteem cop. Hmmm. Really bad combination. Which target group is he taking his frustrations out on? Gang members? Suspected drug dealers? Jaywalkers? Skateboarders? People of Color? Visible religious minorities? Homeless people?

I see a class action lawsuit!

Freddy possibly taking out his frustrations on another group of people is an interesting theory. We'll see if he's a stand-up cop or a police officer who believes he's above the law. Thanks for commenting!

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Insecure, low self-esteem government employees tend to abuse their limited power against those they deal with. DMV workers are a good example (eg Patty & Selma on The Simpsons). Dirty cops is another (Oakland’s Riders is a prime example).

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13 hours ago, droughtquake said:

Insecure, low self-esteem government employees tend to abuse their limited power against those they deal with. DMV workers are a good example (eg Patty & Selma on The Simpsons). Dirty cops is another (Oakland’s Riders is a prime example).

And don't forget those TSA agents haha!

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On 10/25/2019 at 5:02 PM, Superpride said:

Thanks for that informative comment! It can be assumed that Freddy only watches the concerts with violins and is totally oblivious to anything else.

....& maybe Freddy’s parents only ever talked about concert violinists. They don’t seem like the most cosmopolitan of folks. 

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41 minutes ago, Dr. John NYC said:

....& maybe Freddy’s parents only ever talked about concert violinists. They don’t seem like the most cosmopolitan of folks. 

Very true as well. I also believe there is always some degree of favoritism when there's more than one child, and it appears that favoritism for Beth is stronger and more evident to poor Freddy.

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funny how people like to always make one thing better than another 🤔

violin and guitar are both music instruments, like piano or saxo, there isn’t one better than another, they are just different. some music are best with violin and some are best with guitar.

it is the same with « blonde » are hotter than the other, or « white are better than blacks » : we are all earth people, there are nobody better than another, we are just different. everyone’s taste are different. that’s what makes the world so interesting.  🙂

excellent chapter 👍

Edited by Danilo Syrtis
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On 7/24/2020 at 6:55 PM, Danilo Syrtis said:

funny how people like to always make one thing better than another 🤔

violin and guitar are both music instruments, like piano or saxo, there isn’t one better than another, they are just different. some music are best with violin and some are best with guitar.

it is the same with « blonde » are hotter than the other, or « white are better than blacks » : we are all earth people, there are nobody better than another, we are just different. everyone’s taste are different. that’s what makes the world so interesting.  🙂

excellent chapter 👍

Thank you for this comment! Diversity is very important from the way we look to our talents. That's what makes humanity so special!

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