Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
Friday morning Jason, Jen, and Thea headed for school. Ron was waiting for them in front of his house.
“Hey, guys. Ready for another scintillating day of school?”
Thea giggled. “Ron, you’re funny. Hah-hah funny, not peculiar funny.”
Jason smirked, staring at Ron as he joined the Phillips’ siblings. “Well, maybe just a little peculiar.”
Ron popped Jason’s bicep. “I am not peculiar.”
Before Jason could reply Thea interrupted. “Ron, do you like basketball? We were arguing about it at dinner last night and I think it’s boring.”
“Basketball boring? How can you think that?”
“Dribble, foul, dribble, foul, dribble, foul. Over and over and over again. Totally boring.”
“Well, if you think that basketball is so boring, what sport do you like to watch?” Jen asked. “You never got around to telling us that last night.”
“Tennis?” Ron shouted. “You think tennis is more interesting than basketball?” He shook his head. “What are they teaching our middle schoolers these days? How could they let things get so screwed up at Lomita Middle School in just one short year since Jason and I were in the eighth grade? Woe is us when Thea gets to Hillcrest next year. Hillcrest is doomed! Doomed, I say!”
Thea laughed. “You’re still funny, Ron, even if you don’t have a clue what it is that makes one sport boring and another sport good to watch. You should become an actor.”
“Thea, if you’re so smart, how about telling us how you’d fix basketball so it wasn’t boring anymore.”
“Get rid of free throws for most fouls and automatically give one point to the fouled team. Except when a player is fouled when they’re shooting and it doesn’t go in the basket, then automatically give one point and let the shooter try to make two free throws. That would speed up the game a lot and make it less boring and maybe even exciting.”
Jason looked at Ron and grinned. “What a silly idea.”
From Ron’s expression Jason realized that he was thinking seriously about what Thea had proposed.
“Don’t tell me that you think it’s a good idea!”
Ron scratched the side of his nose. “Yeah, I think she has something there. It would sure be interesting to see what a game would be like if it used Thea’s rules.”
“I love that name, Thea’s Rules. I’m going to ask Tom what he thinks,” Jen said.
“I can’t believe you guys. You’re talking about changing the whole way that basketball is played, in high school, college, and the pros. It’ll never happen.” Jason was adamant, that was obvious.
Thea stuck her tongue out at Jason. “Foo on you, Jase. I think Thea’s Rules is a great name. Some support my brother turns out to be.”
“Everything has to start from something and somewhere,” Jen added. “I think Thea came up with a great idea. It’s worth finding out what Coach Larsen thinks about it.”
“You’re going to actually talk to the basketball coach about this... this idea?” Jason asked.
“Sure. Why not?”
“You don’t even know the coach. You think you can just walk into his office and say ‘Hi, I have a new way to play basketball’, and he’s going to actually listen to you? I don’t think so.”
Jen grinned. “Brother dear, I have a secret weapon.”
“And what’s this wonderful secret weapon you’re going to use on Coach Larsen?”
“My boyfriend, Tom. Tom Larsen.”
“You’re kidding. He’s related to the coach?”
“Not just related. Tom is the coach’s son.”
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!” Thea shouted. “Can I go with you, Jen?”
“Of course. You have to come with me and Tom, Tom Larsen, to talk to Coach Larsen. It’s your idea so you need to tell him about it.” Jen sneered at Jason.
“Come on, Jase, get with the plan. Thea came up with an interesting idea,” Ron said, putting his hand on Jason’s shoulder. “We’ll never know if it’s a good idea or not unless we let someone like Coach Larsen know about it and think about it and decide if it makes sense.”
“Alright. I just think it’s one of those ideas that’s not going to go anywhere. So when are you going to get with Coach Larsen about Thea’s idea, Jen?”
“I’ll check with Tom and see if we can talk to him today.”
Ron broke in to the conversation. “Uh, Jen, I think the coach is going to be too busy today to be able to talk about Thea’s idea. He’s going to be totally tied up with planning for tonight’s basketball game. I think you should put it off until the middle of next week. Talk to Tom about what the best time might be.” He turned to Thea, “Sorry to pour cold water on you getting together with the coach today.”
“S’okay, I understand. Jen, let me know when Tom says that we can meet with his dad. I’m okay after school any day next week.”
“Will do, sis.”
The group got to the corner at Mt. Pleasant Avenue and Thea turned to take it the three blocks to Lomita Middle School. The others continued the five blocks down Main Street to Hillcrest High School.
Jason and Ron waved to Jen as she headed for her Homeroom, and the boys continued to their Homeroom. They had Homeroom, English 1 during period two, World History and Geography during period four, and lunch together. The rest of their schedules were different, but sharing homeroom, two classes, and lunch where they were able to see each other helped the first half of the day go faster. The afternoons always seemed to drag interminably, especially for Jason.
When Jason got to the cafeteria for lunch he saw Marcus Benson in line three students ahead. He called out, “Hey, Marcus!”
Marcus turned and saw Jason and smiled.
“Come on back,” Jason suggested. Marcus slipped out of line and joined Jason.
“Hi, Jase. How’s your day?”
“Passable. World History and PE aren’t among my favorite classes. Especially PE. Having PE third period sucks.”
“Think about having PE fifth period,” Jason said. “That’s right after lunch. It totally sucks.”
“I didn’t know that’d what you had,” Marcus said. “You’re right. That’s a lot worse than third period. How do you keep from barfing up your lunch during PE?”
“I elected to take Weight Training as my PE class this semester. That’s a great class. It’s helping me get stronger by building muscle mass. Coach Cunningham is great. He helps every one of us, and there are only fifteen of us in the class so it’s easy to get to use the equipment and weights and stuff.”
“Time to choose our poison, Jase. What do you think the mystery meat is today?”
“I heard that Australia has a huge surplus of kangaroos so maybe that’s what we’re having today.”
The kid in front of Marcus turned around. “I heard that and I’ll have you know that these tacos aren’t kangaroo, they’re made from spit-roasted rat.” He grinned and turned back to the counter and asked the server for the taco plate.
“Ugh. You say kangaroo, he says rat. Maybe I’ll have a salad. No mystery meat in the salad.”
“Sounds like a good idea. That also means I won’t have anything heavy on my stomach when I’m in Weight Training next period.”
They arrived at the salad bar.
“This mixed salad looks pretty good, Marcus. I’m gonna get it with some ranch dressing and a couple of these cornbread muffins.”
“I’m getting the same thing. Sounds good.”
They got their lunches and looked around the cafeteria. Jason saw Ron sitting with some of their friends.
“Come on, let’s sit over there where Ron and Jerome and some others friends of ours are.”
Jason saw that Marcus seemed reluctant. “Come on. These are great guys, you’ll like them and they’ll like you when you get to know each other.”
They sat down, and Jason did the introductions.
“Guys, this is Marcus Benson. Marcus, you know Ron, and the other members of our lunch crew are Jerome, Linda, Vic, Connie, John, and Bob.”
Marcus grinned. “Hi to those of you I know, Ron, Vic, and Connie. Of course, Jase too. Nice to meet those of you I don’t know yet, but I’ll probably forget some of your names. Nothing personal, it’s just that I have a terrible memory for names until I know people for a while.”
Connie laughed. “I agree you have a terrible memory for names. I’m surprised you remembered my name, and we’ve known each other since the first grade.”
Marcus hid his face in his hands, then looked up and smiled. “Okay, okay, it’s not that bad, Connie.” He looked down the length of the table. “Right, Vic?”
“Yeah. Connie always exaggerates. Don’t you Connie?”
“Never! Help me out, guys!”
The conversation went back and forth with lots of kidding, then switched to a discussion of classes and teachers.
“My sister says that she has Ms. Mateo for Biology, and she is a horrible teacher,” Jason reported. “She says some students are passing around a petition with complaints about her. So if you’re going to sign up for Biology next year be sure to avoid Ms. Mateo if she’s still teaching here.”
“What’s so bad about her,” John asked.
“Jen says that in class she just sits up front and watches for anyone who talks and makes them both stand up and tell the class what they were talking about. She doesn’t teach anything, she just assigns the chapter to read and they have to answer the questions at the end of the chapter. The only things they do in class are the experiments. Sounds like she doesn’t do any teaching.”
“Maybe she’s close to retirement,” Linda said. “I have another teacher who’s like that, Miss Peterman, for English. I heard she’s retiring at the end of this semester.”
Ron added, “Well, as long as the bad old teachers get dumped and they hire new younger ones who know what they’re supposed to teach we’ll be better off.”
Everyone agreed that when they’d take Biology they’d try to avoid Ms. Mateo.
“So,” Marcus asked, “are you all going to the game against Livingston tonight? This could be for the league championship. It should be a good game. Raise your hand if you’re going.”
Everyone raised their hand except Bob.
“How come you can’t go?” Ron asked.
“My grandparents are coming from Alabama for a visit. They arrive tonight, and I have to go to the airport with my folks and my brother to meet them and take them back to our house. So, I can’t get to the game tonight. That really sucks, but I can’t do anything about it.”
“Where are they arriving and what time does their flight get in?” Marcus asked.
“They are flying to Oakland and get in around eight thirty tonight. We have to leave about seven thirty to be at the airport in time.”
“The game starts at seven thirty. I guess there’s no way,” Ron said.
“Actually,” Marcus told Bob, “there is a way as long as you don’t mind listening to the game after you get home. It will be over but you’ll be able to listen to the entire game. KWCG-FM is doing a live broadcast of the game, and you can set your PC to tune to KWCG-FM and stream the game broadcast and record it to MP3.”
“Yes! I want to do that. How do I do all that stuff? I’m not very good at doing weird things on my computer.”
“Where do you live?”
“We live on Warren Road near Center Street.”
“If I go home with you after school I can set it up in about a half hour. Only thing is, I’ll need a ride home.”
“Where do you live, Marcus?”
“I live on Magnolia. It’s a few blocks from where Ron and Jason live.”
“No problem. I take the bus home. You can meet me at the bus stop on Main in front of school and we’ll go to my house. I have an extra bus pass so it won’t cost you anything to come with me. And I know my mom will agree to drive you home. But I’ll go outside now to phone her and check that it’s okay just in case.”
Bob got up and went outside. Hillcrest High had a strict policy of no cell phone use in the buildings unless there was an emergency. He returned a few minutes later, smiling.
“We’re all set. You’re sure it’s okay with your folks?”
“Sure. My dad won’t be home until around nine thirty. He has to work late tonight. So I’m good to go. I just have to make sure that I get home in time to fix something to eat before I leave for the game.”
Ron watched the exchange between Marcus and Bob. Marcus seemed like a good guy, helping Bob set up to record the game. Maybe his opinion about Marcus should be reconsidered. That’s what his mother would tell him to do.
The warning bell rang and they picked up their trays and backpacks and headed for the tray drop and then either directly to class or to stop at their locker and then to class. Jason went to the exercise and weight room for his Weight Training PE class, followed by Photography then Spanish three. Ron went to Choral Ensemble, followed by PE then Algebra. Ron would see how Marcus acted in Algebra and make up his mind about him.
For Jason the afternoon dragged and dragged.
Fifth period, Weight Training was fine but a lot of work.
Sixth period, Photography was usually a lot of fun, but today was spent with Mr. Hunter answering lots of questions about how to do the photo shoot project. This was all stuff he’d already covered in class every day during the week, but some students just never seemed to pay attention or get it or whatever. So for Jason the class was, for the first time ever, a colossal bore. Marcus sat in the seat to Jason’s right, but Mr. Hunter was adamant that there be no talking in class when he was teaching. Marcus was doing something on his laptop anyway, so even if they could talk Marcus was preoccupied and probably wouldn't want to talk. Jason watched the clock and was positive that the seconds hand was moving slower than once around the dial every minute.
Seventh period, Spanish 3 was also a drag. They went over last week’s quiz then went through the homework. Ms. Grimbauer picked on students to read their translation of a paragraph of the assignment, then called on other students to tell what they thought was wrong. When Jason read his paragraph Ms. Grimbauer asked his friend Linda Duncan to tell what was wrong. Her answer was, “Nothing, I think that it’s correct.” Ms. Grimbauer smiled and congratulated Jason on his translation, and Linda on knowing that it was correct. When it was Linda’s turn to read her translation of one of the paragraphs Jason was asked to tell what was wrong. He said, “That’s a correct translation,” and grinned. They were both congratulated, and it turned out they were the only two to have correctly translated the paragraphs they had been asked to read in class. That was cool, but sitting through the other translations, most of which were really bad, gave him a headache. And of course as a result Ms. Grimbauer assigned more translations to be read and turned in on Monday. Ugh.
Ron’s afternoon moved quickly. He was looking forward to his Algebra class, and both Choral Ensemble and PE seemed to go by faster than usual. He turned down the hall heading for the Algebra classroom and saw Marcus who, on seeing Ron, waved and smiled. “That’s two points for Marcus,” Ron mentally computed.
“Hey, Marcus. How’s it going?”
“Great. I saw Jason in Photography last period. He wasn’t a happy camper, and neither was I. Most of the kids in class hadn’t paid attention to the Saturday photo shoot directions we got in every class this week and kept asking stupid questions, like ‘How many pictures am I supposed to take, Mr. Hunter?’ and ‘Do I have to get model releases from all the people in my pictures?’ and ‘What do I do if the battery in my camera runs out?’ and a lot more even dumber questions than those. It was super boring. I could hear Jase grinding his teeth.”
“Oh my god, I can imagine. Jase is absolutely unable to just sit back and let the class flow around him when stuff like that is going on. So you handled it okay?”
“Sure. I opened up my laptop and watched some of the Photoshop Elements tutorials to learn something about the program and to have something to do. That’s the program we’re using to edit our pix. I guess Jase didn’t bring his laptop today.”
“He always bitches about how heavy it is. I keep telling him to ask for one of those new lightweight full-power models for his birthday.”
“That’s what I have. They’re great. They’re kind of expensive, though. My dad works for BuyMart. He can get them for a discount. I don’t want to advertise that around school, but if you or Jase are interested I can ask my dad what models they have and how much they’d cost you guys.”
Ron looked at Marcus and smiled. “That’s so cool of you, Marcus. Thanks. I know I’d like one, so if you can get that information that would be great.” ‘Well,’ he thought to himself, ‘that’s about five more points for Marcus.’
While they had been talking they walked into the classroom and took side-by-side seats in the back row near the windows. They usually didn’t sit next to each other, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Ron’s ‘like meter’ for Marcus was approaching the top of the scale.
Seventh period, Ms. Waring spent the entire Algebra class time covering functions. She talked about how to read, interpret, and use function notation and evaluate a function at a value in its domain. Ron wrote that down word-for-word because she wrote it on the board. He knew that it would be in the textbook, but having it in his notes was always better because he knew that his notes were about things that would be on the tests. Of course, Ms. Waring assigned a set of twenty problems to solve for Monday’s class, which generated a groan from everyone in the room. She just grinned, turned, and wrote the assignment on the board. She then asked if there were any questions, and there were.
When the class was finally over Ron packed his notebook and textbook in his backpack. He turned to Marcus.
“You want to get together this weekend and work on these problems? We can both do all of them then check our answers against each other, and if they don’t match then we can figure out what’s wrong with one of the answers.”
“Or what’s wrong with both of the answers,” Marcus stated, and then laughed. “Yes, I’d like to get together this weekend. I’m available both days, any time. We’re going to see each other at the game tonight, so you can let me know what day and time works for you. We can meet at my house, or at your house. Is that okay?”
“Absolutely. You better get going so you can ride the bus with Bob.”
“Thanks for reminding me. I’ll see you tonight, Ron.”
Ron walked to where he normally met Jason and Jen. They were there waiting for him.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” Jason replied.
“How was school, Ron?” Jen asked as they started their walk to meet Thea and return home.
“Well, one thing is I found out that I was wrong about Marcus. He’s not a dick. He’s a nice guy, and I like him a lot. I was real impressed when he offered to go to Bob’s house and set up his PC so he can record tonight’s game and listen to it when he gets home from the airport. He offered to get us a discount on lightweight laptops. His dad works for BuyMart. We talked a lot, and he’s easy to talk to. I was sure wrong about him.”
“Did he tell you about our awful Photography class today?”
“Yeah. He said it was super boring and he got on his laptop and did some tutorials for some photo software you guys use. He said you didn’t have your laptop with you, Jase. If you had you could have done the same thing and it wouldn’t have been as boring.”
“My laptop weighs about nine pounds. That’s way too heavy to bring to school every day.”
“You need one of those new lightweight full-power laptops like Marcus has. Ask for one for your birthday.”
“Yeah, sure. Those things are expensive. My family isn’t mega-rich. Maybe Marcus’s is.”
“Marcus is going to ask his dad what kind of deal he can get for us from BuyMart. I’m interested. Marcus will give you the information too, Jase.”
“Can I get one too?” Jen asked.
“I don’t see why not,” Ron replied, “Marcus said he could get them for me and Jase. We can ask him tonight. He said he’d get the prices from his dad before your dad picks him up to go to the game.”
“There’s Thea,” Jen announced. Who’s that with her?”
“Some boy,” Jason replied. “Looks like we’ve got to do some inquiries and find out everything about him. Make sure we get his full name, Jen.”
Jen’s response was “Good grief!” as she rolled her eyes at Jason.
Thea walked up. “So long, Darryl. See you tomorrow.”
“Hey, wait!” Jason commanded.
The boy looked scared, so Jason smiled to show that he wasn’t in trouble.
“How ‘bout introducing your friend, Thea.” Jason stated that as a command, not as a question.
Thea took a deep breath and rolled her eyes.
“Okay, okay. Darryl, this is my nosey brother Jason, my big sister Jen, and Jason’s friend Ron. Peeps, this is Darryl Lin. He’s in my seventh period English class. He invited me to the Spring Fling dance. Be nice to him. That’s an order.”
“We’re always nice to everyone,” Jen stated. “Hi, Darryl.”
Jason sort of glared at Darryl and said, “Hello!”
“Uh, hi,” Darryl responded, almost in a whisper.
“See!” Thea said, “You’ve frightened him already, Jason. Back off!”
“It’s okay, Thea. I’m not scared. It’s always sort of strange meeting new people for the first time.”
Jason really, really wanted to say ‘If you meet someone new that meeting is going to be the first time. You don’t need both, just one so you might say, It’s always sort of strange meeting new people.’ But he didn’t say anything. It would have embarrassed Darryl and Thea would be on his case about it tonight. Instead he asked, “What would you like to do when you finish school?”
Darryl seemed to light up. “Computers. I love working with computers and cellphones. I’ve learned how to write apps for Android phones. Would you like to see the latest one I’ve written?”
“Sure,” Ron replied.
Darryl pulled out his cell and showed his app, stepping through the features as he talked about them.
“It lets you organize your pix by looking at them and clicking a key on this numeric keypad. It lets you define nine different groups, one for each key one through nine. The zero key ungroups a photo. They aren’t actually moved, I build a database and my app stores the location of each pic. You can even group a pic right after you take it. The app mostly runs in the background, and when you want a slideshow or want to download some pix you just touch the app’s icon.”
“That is so cool, Darryl. I’m impressed,” Jason told him, and smiled at the kid.
“Me too,” Ron added. “Great app. I’d like to get it for my cell. It’s an Android, a Samsung Galaxy 2.”
Jason chuckled. Darryl was smiling and blushing at the same time.
“Thanks guys. It’s not on the Android Market yet, so Thea can show you how to download it from my server.”
“You have a server?” Ron asked.
“Yeah. My dad’s a software developer for Adobe. He’s got me set up with my own server, desktop, and laptop.”
“That’s even cooler. I’m jealous, Darryl.”
“Thanks. I gotta get home. We’re going to the Hillcrest basketball game tonight. My brother Doug is on the team.”
“Now I recognize the name,” Ron said. “Doug Lin. He plays guard and forward, right?”
“Yeah.” Darryl grinned. “Are you guys going to the game?”
“Yeah, all of us except Thea. She hates basketball.”
“I know. She told me. Tomorrow I’m going to tell Doug about her idea for getting rid of foul shooting. I think it sounds great. Then basketball will be more like hockey. That’s my favorite game. Hockey.”
“Do you play?”
“Yeah. We lived in Calgary, that’s in the Province of Alberta in Canada, and I played on a youth hockey league team. It’s fun! Hey, I really gotta get home. See you guys tonight!”
After Darryl left Jason looked at his little sister. “Well, Thea, I think you’ve made a good catch there. Darryl is a nice guy. You’re lucky.”
Thea beamed. “Thanks. I like him a lot. He’s a lot of fun.”
They arrived at Ron’s house and said their goodbyes, then continued two blocks to their house.
Jason’s Mom smiled as they walked into the kitchen. “Hi, guys. How was school today?”
“Well,” Jason told her, “I have a ton of geometry homework. And more Spanish translations. And I have my photo shoot to do tomorrow. I have to write a short story that’s exactly 100 words long, it’s called a Drabble. I have to read a new chapter in my World History book and write essay answers to five questions at the end of the chapter. And how are you, Mom?”
“Not nearly as busy as you are, Jason. Remember you’re going to Rocco’s for pizza, so get to your homework, and at five thirty get washed up and come down. Your dad is going to leave at five forty-five. Okay?”
“Oh, did you want a snack?”
“No, I’m not hungry. Maybe a glass of orange juice?”
“Sure. This is a self-serve kitchen, so help yourself.” Betty grinned at her son.
Jason took his orange juice up to his room and started in on his Geometry problems. They weren’t hard, but there were forty of them, all due third period on Monday.
Once he got engrossed in working on his geometry problems Jason lost track of time. He finally came back to the present when he felt Jen poking him in the arm.
“Jase, we’re leaving in five minutes. Get your butt off that chair and get downstairs.”
“Shit!” he said under his breath. But Jen heard it. “Don’t swear!” She laughed as she went downstairs. Jason got up, grabbed his sweater, and followed his sister.
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