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?
When Jason and his mother got home from his session with Doctor Byers, he called Ron first thing.
“You’ve reached Ron the Remarkable. How can I direct your call?” Ron answered with his typical flip kind of response.
“You can forward me to the Department of Verbal Bullshit Removal,” Jason replied with a laugh.
“Oh, I am so saddened! Nobody appreciates humor in this day and age like they did in years past.”
“Yeah, yeah, enough of this yada, yada, yada. We have a tennis and pool get-together to plan. Why don’t you get your butt over here to my house and we can begin planning a great follow-up to Leshawn’s pool party.”
“Why don’t we do it at my house?”
“It doesn’t make any difference to me. The only thing I thought about is by doing the planning here we can do things like measure the space around our pool and between there and the tennis court.”
“That makes sense. But I have an even better reason for having it here. My folks aren’t home. They won’t be home until after nine o’clock tonight.”
“My grandma fell and the doctor thinks she might have broken her hip and they went to Rocklin to visit her in the hospital and find out what happened.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. When are they going to find out about her hip?”
“I don’t know. I’ll learn tonight when my folks get home.”
“So they left you alone, and you can do anything you want, like have me come over this afternoon? They didn’t put any restrictions on you? That doesn’t sound like your mom. I’d think she’d tell you,” and here Jason raised his voice about an octave, “‘Ron, no visitors, especially that sexy Jason Phillips kid!’”
Ron laughed. “You actually sounded almost like my mom. But, nope, no restrictions, zero, nothing, nada, nichyevo, dim byd! I’m on my own, and I think we should take advantage of it.”
“And she trusts you not to get me over there to have hot and torrid sex?” Jason giggled.
“Oh, god, don’t bring that up again! I’ll never live it down that Jen heard what I said that time. The difference today is there’s no Jen here to sneak up to my bedroom door and listen to what I say to you. Or what we do,” Ron giggled
“What about my mom? Do you think your mom called my mom and told her that you’d be home alone, all hot and bothered and horny?”
“I don’t think so. But you’ll find out when you tell your mom that you’re coming over here to… uh… why did you want to come over here?”
“Actually, what you should say is ‘why did I want you to come over here’. Anyway, the reason is when I talked to Art and Larry yesterday I told them we have a pool and a tennis court and they said that they wished they had a place to play tennis where they live. Anyway, I figured I’d invite them and Kev, and Leshawn and Marcus. The idea being we get Leshawn and Marcus together and see if there’s any chemistry, any electricity, between them. If there is maybe a chance they could become boyfriends. They both need a boyfriend. Kev agrees with me and so do the twins. I wanted to do it tomorrow, but Mom has her Braille meeting so that’s a no-go. She said I can do it any day, Wednesday through Saturday. I don’t want to do it on Sunday because I’m going to try to convince Mom that we should go to Mass at St. Stephens instead of St. Mary’s. So I need to decide….”
Ron interrupted. “TMI, TMI! Jase, you always get your motor mouth going a hundred miles an hour and you go into one of your ‘To Much Information’ performances. We can talk about all that stuff at my house when you get here.”
“Okay, I’ll come over. But I need to plan this tennis and swimming get-together first thing so I can call Art and Larry and find out when they can come over, then call the others.”
“You have all their phone numbers?”
“Yes. Enough already, let me tell Mom I’m going to your place and I’ll see you in about ten minutes. Okay?”
“Yeah. Wear shorts and a T. It’s warm out and it’s gonna be even hotter in my bedroom.”
Ron started laughing, and when he finished Jason said, “You are such a horndog! I’ll be wearing whatever I’m wearing.”
“Hey, I gotta run. Someone’s at the door.”
“Okay. I’ll see you in ten. Bye.”
Jason looked at himself in the mirrors on his closet doors. He still had on what he’d worn for his session with Doctor Byers, and that sure wouldn’t be appropriate for going to Ron’s house. He stripped down to his boxer briefs and socks and grabbed a T with an eagle, the school mascot, on the front surrounded by ‘Hillcrest High School’ in a circle. He found a pair of maroon board shorts that with the gold background color of the T matched the Hillcrest school colors. He grabbed his cell, his wallet, and his house key and headed downstairs.
“I’m in the kitchen.”
Jason sat down at the kitchen table. “I’m going to go over to Ron’s and we’re going to plan the tennis and swimming get-together, then we’ll phone Art and Larry and see when they can come over, any day Wednesday through Saturday. Then I’ll have Mrs. Grant call you so you can talk to her and make sure that Art and Larry aren’t serial killers or something.” Jason grinned.
“Don’t be flippant, Jason Phillips!” She growled. He could tell that she wasn’t mad because she grinned. That way he knew that things were really back to normal between the two of them, joking with each other like they’d always done before.
“Can I borrow the landscaping plan, the one that shows the tennis court and pool? That way we can decide how to arrange where we’ll eat and where to put chairs for watching the guys play tennis. Is that okay?”
“Yes. There’s a copy in the linen closet in the upstairs hall. It’s on the top shelf. Make sure you don’t write on it or poke any holes in it. What time will you be home?”
“Six-ish? Unless I’m invited to have dinner at Ron’s.”
“Six o’clock is fine. But having dinner with the Cantham’s isn’t going to work. Your father and I are going out to dinner, just the two of us. We enjoyed our dinner at Prima last week so much that tonight we’re going to Flemings for a steak dinner. So Jen will be fixing dinner for the three of you tonight.”
“Jen knows how to cook?” Jason asked, and his expression showed that he thought that very doubtful.
“Yes, Jen knows how to cook. Besides, you’re having lasagna and a salad. All she has to do is take the lasagna out of the freezer and follow the instructions on the package.”
“Jen knows how to read?” he asked, and he started laughing.
“Because of that nasty remark, you get to make the salad and clean up the dishes and kitchen after dinner,” she grinned. “So be sure you’re home by six, okay?”
“Okay. See you later, Mom.”
“Have fun. Be sure to have Mrs. Grant phone me!”
“I will. Bye.”
Jason went upstairs and got the landscape plan, unrolled it on his bed and removed the page that had an overview of the back yard garden with the tennis court and pool. He carefully rolled it up and left for Ron’s house.
Once he got to the sidewalk he checked the time on his cell. A little after four o’clock. That would put a crimp in Ron’s idea about having hot torrid sex. Jason chuckled to himself. By the time they finished planning the get-together and talked to Art and Larry and the other guys it would be close to six and that made him feel better. He wanted to have sex with Ron, he really did, but they’d promised Mrs. Cantham that they’d wait until they went to college. Jason hated to lie, and having sex, again, when they’d promised not to, would be compounding the lie. At least he thought it would be a lie. He didn’t think that Ron shared that point of view. Ron was too much of a horndog. That’s one of the reasons he loved Ron so much. They were so alike but so different, they fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
He arrived at Ron’s and rang the doorbell. Usually Ron would have flung the door open as he stepped onto their front porch.
A woman Jason didn’t recognize opened the door.
“Hi. You must be Jason. Ron told me you’d be coming over. Come on in. I’m Ron’s Aunt Cathy, Cathy Cantham.”
“Uh… hello, Mrs. Cantham.”
“No need to call me Mrs. Cantham. Just call me Cathy. Ron told me to tell you to go on back to his bedroom when you got here.”
“Uh, would it be okay if Ron and I use the kitchen table? We’re planning a tennis and pool get-together at my house, and I have the landscape plan of our back yard so we can decide where to set up everything, and the printout of our back yard is pretty big. I don't want to put it on Ron’s bed because my dad wouldn’t be happy if we ended up poking holes in it.”
“Sure, you can clear off the kitchen table. I’ll need it later because I’m fixing dinner for Ron. You’re welcome to stay if you want. We’re having roast chicken.”
“Thank you, but my folks are going out for dinner and my sister is fixing lasagna for us for dinner, and I have to fix the salad. I have to leave at about five minutes before six so I’m home in time to do my part of the dinner.”
“That’s nice, you and your sister and…?”
“I have two sisters, one is a sophomore at Hillcrest High and the other is in the eighth grade at Lomita Middle School.”
Ron walked into the kitchen. “Hi, Jase. I see that Aunt Cathy cornered you for her version of a third-degree interrogation.” He grinned.
“Not at all, Ron,” she said. “I invited Jason to join us for dinner, but he has to have dinner at home tonight. So it’s going to be you and me and your Uncle Bruce.”
“Oh. Okay, too bad you can’t have dinner with us Jase.”
“Yeah, I get to eat Jen’s cooking. Anyway, Ron, let’s clear off your kitchen table and spread out the landscape plan for our back yard. We can figure out where to put the table and chairs for when we eat, and the lounge chairs around the pool, and chairs alongside the tennis court so we can watch the matches. Then I want us to decide what to eat and what time, when to start and when to end, all that kind of stuff. So let’s start with planning the layout and food, then we can go to your room and begin planning what we’re going to do and when.”
That’s what they did. Cathy Cantham listened in and made a few suggestions about food that were well received.
“Now let’s figure out where we want to put the table and chairs for when we eat, and some chairs next to the tennis court for people to watch the matches and to wait their turn,” Jason said.
After about fifteen minutes of friendly joking they had the location of everything defined. They spent the next half hour arguing about the menu. They finally decided that it would be best to avoid anything that would have to be cooked, like burgers or hotdogs. The easy solution was pizza and hot wings, both of which could be delivered to the Phillips’ house at the time they’d pick for when to eat. Cathy suggested a do-it-yourself salad as the only other thing they needed. It would be the only thing that needed any preparation, and it could all be done in advance. With that they had their food planned.
“I think pizza and hot wings are a great idea, Jase,” Ron commented. “Like Aunt Cathy told us, that means the only thing we need is a big salad with stuff people can add to the lettuce themselves. So like if someone doesn’t like avocado, they can skip it because it won’t automatically be in the salad.”
“And that make more avocado for you and me, right?” Jason added with a grin.
“What! You think I’d think about me when what I’m doing is thinking about all those who don’t like avocados? I’m crushed! I’m being purloined and totally unfairly, if you ask me!”
Jason giggled. “Something’s being stolen from you?” he asked.
“Huh?” Ron said, not understanding what Jason meant.
“You said you’re being purloined. That means something’s being stolen from you.”
“Nah. Purloined means I’m purposely being misunderstood.”
“Uh, Ron,” Cathy said, “Jason is correct. Purloin means to steal something, usually when you’re stealing it secretly from someone you know.”
“Oh. But you know what I meant, didn’t you Jase?”
“Yes, Ron, I understand. You want to purloin as much of the avocado as you can,” Jason replied, and he started laughing.
“That’s exactly right, Jase! That’s what I want to do. But of course, I’ll be purloining them for me and for you.”
“If you guys want lots of avocados for your salad,” Cathy said, “you’d better buy them today so they have time to get ripe by the time you have your get-together. Most of the avocados in the stores are hard and you can’t eat them until they soften up enough. By the way, when is this get-together?”
“We haven’t decided, yet,” Jason replied. “I think that’s the next thing we’ve got to figure out.”
“Well,” Ron said, “Friday might be the best day. That way we have lots of time to get what we need, including my… I mean the avocados, and to order the pizzas and wings.”
Jason agreed, “Friday works for me, too.”
“Okay, which of you is going to be responsible for getting the food?” Cathy asked.
Jason and Ron looked at each other.
“I guess we’ll split it up,” Ron suggested. “We can ask the guys who are coming to each bring a six pack of sodas.”
“I think we need to get our moms involved in figuring out how to get the food,” Jason said. “Even though this whole thing is my idea, maybe they’ll split the cost of the pizza and wings.”
“That sounds like a good solution, Jason. Do you agree, Ron?” Cathy asked.
“Sure. Now we have to get our moms to agree,” Ron replied.
“I think if you bring it to them the way you’ve just described they’ll agree,” Cathy said.
Both boys grinned.
Jason looked at the clock. It was almost five o’clock, so they had an hour which would be more than enough time.
“Let’s go to my bedroom and make the calls, Jase,” Ron suggested.
“Works for me.”
Once they arrived in Ron’s bedroom, Jason shut the door behind them.
“When did your Aunt get here?”
“That’s who it was when I told you I heard the doorbell. Damn, my mom is a lot cleverer and sinister than I ever thought.”
“Told ya so,” Jason kidded his boyfriend. “So no hot and steamy sex this time, right?”
“I don’t wanna talk about it!” Ron growled.
“Okay, then let’s get down to business. I’ll call Art and Larry,” Jason said. “Let’s see. I got Larry’s cell number from him when we were at Leshawn’s.”
He went to his contacts and clicked on the entry for Larry Grant. After two rings Larry answered.
“Hi, Larry. This is Jason, we met at Leshawn’s pool party yesterday.”
“Yeah, I remember you. You and Ron. Hey, how you doing?”
“Good, good. In fact, excellent. Hey, we talked about inviting you two over to my house to play some tennis and use our pool. Ron and I planned doing just that and figured we’d invite you, Kev and Leshawn, and Marcus, so there’ll be seven of us.”
“Leshawn and Marcus, ‘eh? Sounds like you’re going to play matchmaker, Jase.”
“Uh… what do you mean?”
“Can it, Jase. I know what you’re doing and it’s a great idea. I think they like each other and just need a little push, like into the pool.” Larry started laughing. “Art and I talked about it when we got home last night. And we’d love to play some tennis. So, when are you planning on having us over?”
“Are you and Art available on Friday?”
“Sure. Friday’s cool. What time?”
“How about ten? It’ll be warm enough by then to play some tennis, then a little later the pool will be nice. We’re going to have pizza and hot wings and a big do-it-yourself salad for lunch. Can you and Art each bring a six pack of whatever sodas you like?”
“Sounds good, and we’ll bring Coke and Dew. Let me find Art and tell him and tell my mom. She’ll want to talk to your mom to make sure you’re not a serial killer or something.”
Jason started to laugh, and it took a while for him to calm down enough to answer Larry’s question, “What’s so funny?”
“That’s exactly what I told my mom, that she’ll want to talk to your mom to make sure that you and Art aren’t serial killers or something.”
“Moms always seem to think alike,” Larry replied. “They must have some sort of mental telepathy that lets them say the same sorts of things to their kids. Whatever, I’ll have my mom call your mom. What’s your home phone number, Jase?”
After telling Larry his home phone number and his mom’s first name, Jason and Larry said goodbye and their call ended.
“We’re cool with Larry and Art for Friday at ten,” Jason told Ron. “Now we’ve got to invite Kevin and Leshawn, and Marcus. You want to call Marcus and I’ll call Leshawn?”
“Why don’t I call Leshawn and you call Marcus?” Ron countered.
“Okay, I don’t care one way or the other. Let’s do it your way. Just make sure you ask them to bring a six-pack of sodas each.”
Jason called Marcus and explained who’d be at the get-together on Friday, and he seemed very eager to attend. He checked with his mom and got her approval, and said he’d bring a six-pack of Barq’s Diet Root Beer because he’d tried it at Leshawn’s party and liked it.
Ron called Leshawn and told him who would be there, and he definitely wanted to come to the get-together. Kevin got on the phone and confirmed that he too would be there. Both said they’d bring a six-pack of sodas. However, Kevin had a problem.
“I didn’t bring my tennis racquet with me. Do you or Jase have one I can borrow?”
Ron held the phone away from his mouth. “Hey, Jase, do you have a tennis racquet that Kev can use Friday?” he asked.
“Yeah. No problem.”
“Kev, Jase has a racquet you can use.”
“That’s great. Thanks. See you Friday. Bye.”
Ron flopped on his bed. “Well, sounds like we have Friday all taken care of.”
“All we have to do is decide on what kind of pizza to get,” Jason said. “I think we’ll get it at Extreme Pizza. Theirs is the best. Maybe one of their Yard Sale pizzas, It’s got everything on it except anchovies, and my favorite the Mammoth, and a four cheese, that’s three extra-large pizzas. You think that’s enough?”
“No. Your sisters might be home and we should get enough so they can have some too, even if they aren’t part of our tennis and pool get-together. That means there’ll be nine of us eating pizza. Oh yeah, and your mom will want some too, so that’s ten. How about we also get one of the Hawaiian ones and a Mexican one? That makes five pizzas. That’s a half a pizza each, and it should be just about enough.”
“How many wings? You want the boneless ones or the Buffalo kind with bones?”
“Boneless. They’re a lot easier to eat and there won’t be any bones laying around that we’ll have to clean up. Maybe get a dozen of each flavor, that’s three dozen wings, and get both Ranch and Blue Cheese dipping sauces.”
“I don’t know, Ron. The Thai wings are really hot and the barbeque wings are too sweet tasting. I think we should stick with all of them being the traditional Buffalo flavor.”
“Okay, I like ‘em all so I don’t really care.”
“Let’s write this down so I don’t forget,” Jason suggested.
Ron pulled out a pad and a pen and wrote ‘Food List’ at the top of two sheets of paper and handed them to Jason. “We’ll need a copy of the same list for both of us. I’ll talk to my mom tomorrow after they get home. I know she’ll want to chip in and buy like half the food. My mom and your mom will have to talk and decide how to divide things up. Better than us doing it not knowing what this stuff costs.”
“We’ve got some coupons from Extreme Pizza,” Jason said, “and if they haven’t expired we can use them to save some bucks.”
“We might have some too,” Ron added.
Jason looked at his cell. “It’s almost six, I’ve got to get home and help Jen with our dinner. I have to make the salad.”
“What was it that Jen was cooking?”
“She isn’t cooking anything. She’s taking a frozen lasagna out of the freezer, reading the directions on the package, and then she’ll put it in the microwave. My salad is more like cooking than what she’d doing.”
“Hey, it’s even worse. Mom said I also have to clean up the kitchen after dinner, all by myself.”
“Double poor baby!”
“Thank you. Now I gotta get going.”
“Okay. Things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them, did they, Jase?”
“Nope. Hey, Ron, what are you doing tomorrow?”
“Want to go hiking? They changed the weather forecast and it’s not going to be hot. We can go to Sugarloaf.”
“That’s boring. We’ve gone there too many times already.”
“Okay, how about Shell Ridge? We haven’t been there in a long time,” Jason suggested.
“That sounds good. What time do you want to leave?”
“How about right after breakfast. Say around nine thirty?”
“Okay. I’ll come ringing your doorbell around nine thirty. I’ll bring a lunch and some water.”
Jason checked the clock on the nightstand next to Ron’s bed. “I’ll bring the same. And my camera and cell. Right now I gotta go. It’s almost six and I have a salad to prepare.”
As he walked home Jason realized that he’d have to talk to his mom about the food when they got home from their dinner out. Maybe she’d want him to go shopping with her tomorrow after she was back from her Braille meeting. That should be okay; he and Ron should be back from their hike by two thirty.
When Betty and Tim returned home from their dinner out, Jason said he needed to talk to his mom about their Friday tennis and pool get-together. They sat across the kitchen table.
“Did Mrs. Grant phone you?”
“Yes, thanks for remembering to have her sons ask her to do that. She will drive them here Friday morning then we’ll visit for a while. So, tell me about this tennis and pool get-together.”
Jason explained, “We’ll have chairs so those who aren’t playing tennis can sit and watch the matches, and we’ll move the table and chairs from the patio out there between the pool and the tennis court and that’s where we’ll eat. For lunch we thought about pizza and hot wings and a do-it-yourself salad.”
“What’s a do-it-yourself salad?” Betty asked.
“A big bowl of chopped up lettuce, with dishes of cherry tomatoes, cut up avocado, garbanzos, artichoke hearts, and sliced celery, radishes, and red and orange bell peppers all to add in. We figured two salad dressings, Ranch and Italian would be enough. People start with the lettuce and add whatever they want.”
“That sounds good and easy to make. It’s just some cutting and slicing.”
“Ron’s aunt Cathy was at his house. His folks went to visit his grandma because she fell and might have broken her hip. Anyway, his aunt said that if we want avocado, and we do, the ones in the store are hard and we’d have to buy them right away so they can get ripe by Friday.”
“She’s right. I need to go shopping tomorrow after I get home from my Braille meeting and buy these things for the salad. Are you sure that pizza and hot wings are okay?”
“We figured we didn’t want to cook stuff like burgers or hotdogs and instead we could have pizza and hot wings. We could order both of them from Extreme Pizza and have them delivered.”
“Well, that sounds okay but pizza is a lot more expensive than hotdogs.” Betty grinned, waiting to see Jason’s reaction.
“Yeah… but what if Mrs. Cantham agrees to go halves with you?”
“Did you talk to her about that?”
“No, she wasn’t there. But Ron’s aunt thought that would be a good idea.”
“That would be easy for her to say, she’s not the one paying for pizza and hot wings for a bunch of hungry teenage boys with hollow legs. How many pizzas were you thinking of ordering?”
“Well, the best size for cutting and having a few different kinds is the large. We figured five of them of different kinds. They’re around $21.00 each. Then three dozen boneless wings and they’re around $8.00 a dozen.”
“Jason, that’s a lot of food for, how many of you?”
“Seven, but we figured that you and Jen and Thea would want some of the pizza and wings too, even if you aren’t part of our tennis and pool get-together. And if Mrs. Grant stays to eat lunch that’s eleven people to feed.”
“I don’t know about Jen and Thea sticking around just to eat pizza. You could invite them to be part of your tennis and pool get-together.”
“Umm… I don’t know about that. It seems a little… weird, having my sisters playing tennis and being in the pool with seven of us guys.”
“You’re probably right. Regardless if they’re here to eat or not, the pizza and wings will come to around $130.00 plus tax and tip. That’s sort of expensive, don’t you think? And it doesn’t even include sodas.”
“The guys are going to each bring a six-pack of some soda so we’ll have plenty to drink. If Mrs. Cantham agrees to go halves with you it’s only $65.00 each.”
“Add tax and tip, and you’re talking almost 25% more.”
“Oh. I forgot about that part. That is expensive, isn’t it.”
Betty saw Jason’s crestfallen expression.
“Don’t worry about it. You just get everyone here and your dad and I will take care of the pizza and wings and the salad. You guys are worth it. What I’ll need is a list with the kinds of pizzas and wings that you want.”
“You sure you want to pay the whole thing? That is a lot of money. I think Ron will talk his mom into going halves with you.”
“That’s not necessary. You’re the one who planned this event, not Ron.”
“But Ron did help plan it. That’s what I did with him when I went over there today.”
“Who’s had the original idea to get your friends together to play tennis and swim at our house?”
“I guess I did.”
“Then we’ll take care of the food. You said everyone is bringing Coke or some other kind of sodas, so have Ron do the same and you’ll be all set.”
“Thanks, Mom. You’re the greatest!”
“Be sure to tell Ron that he shouldn’t tell his mother about going haves with us.”
“Okay, I’ll phone him. If it’s okay, Ron and I would like to go on a hike at Shell Ridge tomorrow morning.”
“What time would you leave and get home?”
“We’ll leave after breakfast, around nine-thirty, and be home by two. We’ll bring water and sandwiches and trail mix and an apple. I’m going to bring my camera and take a bunch of pictures.”
“It’s alright. You’ve gone hiking there quite a bit, so you know the trails. Don’t forget to bring some sunblock and a cap, and your cellphone.”
“Right, I forgot about my cell. I’ll definitely bring it, and I’m sure Ron will bring his too.”
Jason called Ron, who didn’t sound very pleased with the decision that Jason’s mom would pay for all of the food. But he finally agreed and said he wouldn’t tell his mom about splitting the cost. He did sound very pleased when Jason told him their hike had been approved by his mom.
The next morning Ron rang the doorbell at the Phillips’ home at exactly nine-thirty. He had to leave his house and walk slowly to make sure he’d ring the doorbell at the exact time he’d said he’d arrive.
Jason opened the door to a grinning Ron Cantham who stood there grinning and pointing to his watch.
“I rang your doorbell at exactly nine-thirty, Jase. I like being on time. Exactly on time, in fact.”
“Well, don’t just stand there grinning, come on in and I’ll go get my stuff and we’ll head out.”
Ron followed Jason into the house and as Jason ran upstairs Ron walked into the kitchen. Jen sat at the kitchen table reading a textbook.
“Hi, Jen. What’re you reading?”
“You still have that bad teacher, what was his name?”
“Her name. Ms. Mateo. And, unfortunately, the answer is yes.”
She slammed the book closed. “I’m through with this. I’m four chapters ahead of old lady Mateo and I need a break.” She stretched and sort of moaned. “My back is stiff from sitting here reading for the past hour.”
“You need to get some exercise. Like me and Jase. We’re going on a hike over in Shell Ridge today, getting some exercise.”
“I ought to go with you. Taking a hike sounds good.”
Ron looked at her for a couple second, then made up his mind.
“Why don’t you?”
“Why don’t I what?”
“Come with us. Go hiking in Shell Ridge. It’s a fantastic day, you’ll get some exercise and some sun. You’ll need your hiking boots, some water, and a sandwich and some fruit for your lunch.”
“What time are you planning on getting back?”
“Do you think Jase will mind?”
Ron just smiled, and Jen realized that they were about to play a trick on her brother. So she smiled too.
Just like it had been planned, Jason walked into the kitchen. “You ready to go, Ron?”
Ron looked at Jen and grinned, then turned to grin at Jason.
“Not quite. I invited Jen to go with us. She needs to put on her hiking boots and make a sandwich and we’ll be ready to go.”
Jason stood there wondering what happened. Jen? Hiking? He shrugged.
“Jen, you need to get some jeans on. You can’t go hiking at Shell Ridge in shorts. You’ll need your hiking boots and a cap, too. I’ll make you a sandwich. Is peanut butter and jam on rye okay?”
“Sounds good. I’ll bring my fanny pack and some sunblock. I’ll be right down.”
She ran upstairs. “Don’t run!” Jason shouted.
She returned in under five minutes.
“Here’s your sandwich, an apple, a baggie of trail mix, and an insulated water bottle with ice water. It should stay cool all day.”
“Thanks, Jase.” She put her lunch and the water bottle in their compartments in her fanny pack. “I have my cell with me, too, and it’s fully charged. I also brought my binoculars in case we see any interesting animals or birds while we’re hiking.”
The hike started as a walk of a little over a mile and a quarter from their neighborhood to the Rockspring trailhead and onto the Joaquin Ranch Trail, then a quarter mile gradual uphill climb to the Briones-Mt. Diablo Trail. After a bit they turned left onto the Indian Creek Trail.
“This is a good hike and it’s easy,” Ron announced for Jen’s benefit. “We’re on the Indian Creek Trail. The creek and the ponds should have a lot of water. If we’re lucky we might see a newt. Don’t pick it up if you see one. They have a chemical on their skin that’s real irritating if it gets on your skin.”
“Thanks for the info, Ron. It makes the trail more interesting. Where are we heading?”
“We’ll head up to Indian Valley. It’s a nice hike, lots of plants and trees for shade in some parts.”
After about twenty minutes they met a junction with another trail. “We’re crossing the Fossil Hill Trail. The pond you see on our right is usually dry in the summer. We’ll keep going on the Indian Creek Trail and in a few minutes we’ll meet the Fossil Hill Trail again.”
They turned left onto another trail. “We’re on the Kovar Trail to Indian Valley.” In a couple minutes they came to a large pond. “Oh, wow, take a look down there. The Indian Valley Pond has a lot of water. I guess that’s because we had lots of rain this winter. We’ll return to the Fossil Hill Trail. It loops around and has some interesting views and usually lots of birds.” When they got to Indian Valley Pond they stopped to rest for a few minutes.
“How do you know all these trails so well, Ron?” Jen asked.
“I had to write a report for my California History and Geography class last year, and since Jase and I like to hike I decided to make it about the hiking trails in the Shell Ridge Open Space. I bought a hiking book and brought it with us and we hiked every trail in this part of the Open Space. Then I did a lot of research, learning about the Indians who lived here and the Mexicans and Americans who moved here later on.”
“Well, I’ve never gone hiking where someone talked about where we are and where we’re going,” Jen said. “I’m learning things about where we live that I didn’t know.
“Where to now, Jase?” Ron asked.
Jason looked at his watch. “It’s not even eleven o’clock yet. How about we hike over to Borges Ranch? We can eat our lunches when we get there. Have you ever been to Borges Ranch, Jen?”
“No. I heard about it, though. We were supposed to go on a school trip a couple years ago, but it started raining and we didn’t get to go.”
“Well then, let’s do it!” Jason declared. “Jen, Borges Ranch is interesting, and getting there isn’t a heavy duty hike.”
It took about twenty-five minutes to get to Borges Ranch, and they decided this would be a good time and place to eat lunch. They walked a few minutes to the picnic grounds and sat at a table under some trees.
“Jen, you said you’re still having problems with your Biology class and the teacher. What’s going on?” Ron asked.
“She’s not doing any teaching. All she does is tell us which pages to read, which problems to do and turn in the next day, and then she picks two people to demonstrate the experiment to the class. That’s not teaching.”
“What about that petition you said was going around. Did it ever get turned in to someone who could do something about it?”
“Yes. And guess what?”
Ron shook his head and answered her question, “Nothing has happened.”
“I have an idea for you,” Jason said. “Sign up for Biology at Valley College next semester, and drop it at Hillcrest. One semester of Biology at a community college should be accepted as equivalent to a year of high school Biology.”
Jen sat thinking about what Jason had suggested. “Do you really think that would work?”
“I know you can take courses at Valley College while you’re in high school for college credit. I’ve heard that you can get high school credit for equivalent classes. What I don’t know is if the high school class is required for graduation, like your science class, can you get credit then. Ron, could you ask your dad if he’d check into it for Jen?”
“Sure. I’ll ask him as soon as I get home. Or as soon as my folks get home.”
“Thanks, Ron. That could solve my problem. Of course, the class would have to be available in the late afternoon for this to work.”
Ron took a bite of his sandwich then sat staring off into the distance. “I just thought of something. I think my Uncle Bruce works for the community college district. if he does, then I can ask him. Let me call Aunt Cathy.”
Ron called his aunt and they chatted for a while. He ended the call and grinned to Jen.
“My aunt is going to call my uncle and have him call me if he isn’t in a meeting. I should get a call from him or from her in a few minutes. We could have your answer in a few minutes, Jen.”
“Thanks, Ron. It pays to have friends in the know. Right, Jase?”
They sat finishing their lunches. Just as Ron was about to take a bite out of his apple his phone rang.
Jen and Jason only heard one side of the conversation, but after a short exchange Ron handed Jen his phone.
“Talk to my Uncle Bruce. You can explain what you want to do better than I can.”
“Uh, hi. I’m Jennifer Phillips.”
“Hi, Jennifer. Tell me what it is you want to do.”
“I’m taking Biology, a class I need so I can take Advanced Placement science classes AP Physics and AP Chemistry and get A’s in those classes. The teacher I have doesn’t do any teaching. All she does every day is tell us what pages to read, what exercises to finish and turn in the next day, and once or twice a week she picks two people to do the experiments without doing it herself or giving them any help. And she gives quizzes every Friday. I’m not learning what I should be learning. I need a class where I can actually learn Biology. We’ve complained but the school can’t seem to do anything about it. I tried to transfer to another class but it was full. So, what I want to do is take Biology at Valley College in summer session and get college credit for it and high school credit for it as well. Is there a way I can do both?”
“I think so. Here’s what you need to do. First, I need a copy of your high school transcript. You’re what, a sophomore?”
“Ask your advisor to send a copy of your current transcript to Bruce Cantham at the Central County Community College District. They have the address. Your transcript will have your freshman classes and grades, so ask them to include your fall semester classes and grades for this school year. If they ask why, tell them that you’re going to take a class at Valley College during summer session.
“Second, I need you to write a letter explaining why you want to take Biology at Valley College during summer session. You described it well, just go with what you said.
“Third, I will schedule a meeting for you with Charles Jameson, the head of the science department at Valley College. It will be a sort of interview. He’ll have your transcript and your letter, both of which I’ll send to him.
“Fourth, I need to know what time you want to take the class. I’m checking the schedule and there’s only one Biology 102 summer session class. Lecture is Monday through Thursday from twelve to one-thirty with labs on Monday and Wednesday from one-thirty to four-thirty. That gives you six hours of lecture and six hours of lab each week for eight weeks. Is that class schedule okay? It’s more intense than a high school course.”
“I like the idea that it’s more intense than what I’d get in high school. It should work for me because I’ll get both high school and college credit for the class,” Jen replied. “I’m also going the take the AP Biology exam to make sure I get full credit for it in high school.”
“That’s a good idea, but that’s going to make your summer very focused on studying. Is that okay?”
“That’s perfect. I love going to school, and I’m interested in Biology. I want to take Bioengineering at either Berkeley or Davis. I’m excited about taking Biology at Valley College.”
“Good for you, Jen. One other thing, I want to know what you’re going to do about the Biology class you’re taking. Your second semester is almost over. Are you planning on dropping the class?”
“I’m going to drop the class and switch to Computer Lab, it’s sort of like Study Hall but on a computer. The last date for a drop is May second. I can only drop one class in a semester, and I have to make it up. That’s why I want to take Biology at Valley College during the summer. I’ll include that in my letter,” Jen replied. “Where should I mail that letter?”
“Instead of mailing it, email it to me as an attachment.” He gave Jen his address, phone number and email address. Jen thanked him over and over, and they said goodbye.
“Oh my god, maybe I will be able to escape the clutches of Ms. Mateo. Thank you, Ron, thank you!”
“Awe, shucks, it was nothin’ little lady,” Ron said in his John Wayne voice. He smiled. “I really didn’t do anything. It’s just that I happened to know someone who could help you.”
“Ron, you heard me talk about Ms. Mateo and how maybe I could take Biology at Valley College, and you remembered your uncle works for the community college district. So you hooked me up with your uncle and it looks like I might be able to take a class where I’ll actually be taught Biology. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you helping me out. This has been the best hike I’ve ever been on!”
Jen grabbed Ron in a hug, and he blushed. When Jason saw Ron blushing he grinned. ‘Cool!’ he thought to himself.
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