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?
Jason got home, eager to hear what Carter Allen had to say about the three guys who attacked him and Ron. “Hi, Mom! I’m home!” he called as he walked into the kitchen. “What’s for dinner?”
“Well, nice to see you too, Jason,” his mother replied.
“Sorry. Nice to see you, Mom.” Jason dropped his gym bag on the floor and walked up to his mother and gave her a big hug.
“To answer your question, we’re having pork chops, baked potatoes, carrots and zucchini, and salad.”
“Mmm… sounds good! So what did Mr. Allen tell Dad about those three bullies?” he asked.
“Jen, and even Thea, should hear what he told your father. So we’ll all find out at dinner.”
“You don’t know what he told Dad?”
“No, we’re all going to hear at the same time, during dinner. Now, put your gym clothes in the hamper and go get ready for dinner. Your dad is picking up Thea and will be home in a few minutes. As soon as they’re back we’re going to eat. Oh, please tell Jen to come down, would you?”
“Sure, I’ll tell her. I’m going to change and wash, and I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
“Thanks, Jase. And don’t run!”
Jason had started running upstairs, but he slowed to a walk when he heard his mother’s warning.
“Jen!” he called out as he walked past her bedroom door, which was closed, “Mom wants us down for dinner!”
Jason walked into his room and emptied his gym bag, grabbed some clean clothes, and rushed into the bathroom to wash up and change. When he finished he went downstairs to the kitchen and sat down at the table.
“Hi, Mom!” he announced. “I see that I’m the first one at the table.”
“I’m impressed. Did you put your dirty clothes in the hamper?”
“Not yet. I changed after I cleaned up and I’ll bring them all down after dinner.”
“Why not now, before dinner?”
“The stuff in my gym bag got pretty sweaty and I didn’t want to touch it before dinner because I’d have to wash my hands again.”
Betty Phillips shook her head. ‘Boys!’ she thought.
“Well,” she told Jason, “please make sure you bring everything downstairs and put it in the hamper in the laundry room right after dinner. Then you’ll have to wash your hands, again, so you can help me get things ready for the do-it-yourself salad for tomorrow.”
“Did you tell Jen that we would be eating dinner in a few minute and she should come down?”
“Yeah. I hollered at her when I got to her bedroom. Her door was closed, but she had to have heard me.”
Tim Phillips and their younger daughter Thea arrived home and walked into the kitchen.
“Hi, hon,” Tim said. “I’m going to wash my hands. I’ll be right back.”
Thea sat down at the table across from Jason.
“How was the basketball practice?” she asked.
“Hold on, hold on,” Betty said. “Thea, go wash your hands. Dinner will be on the table in a couple minutes.”
Jen came downstairs and took her usual seat next to Jason.
“How was the basketball practice?” she asked.
Jason laughed. “That’s exactly what Thea asked just before you got here,” Jason replied.
“Thea? Where’d she go?”
“To wash her hands for dinner,” Betty said. “I assume you washed your hands, Jen?”
“Yes, Mom, I washed my hands before coming downstairs. So, Jase, did you have a good time at the basketball practice?”
“That was my question too,” Thea said as she sat down. Tim joined them and helped Betty put dinner on the table. After they were all seated and had put their dinners on their plates, Jason answered Jen and Thea’s question about the basketball practice.
“It was fun, they broke the team into two parts and they played against each other. Doug Lin is really impressive, and I think he’s a serious candidate for all-League MVP. Then they did a lot of one-on-ones with the coaches working on skills. After that they practiced free throws and three-point shots.
“The best thing, though, was the tryouts. Ron did great, he made seventeen out of twenty three-point shots. That’s an eighty-five percent average! They did the tryouts in a game setting against second-string varsity and first-string JV players, so he was shooting over guys playing defense who are older and a lot taller. I could see that Coach Larsen was really impressed. A friend of mine, Todd Brooks, did great both playing offense and defense. He’s only a freshman and is already six foot two. Another friend, Greg Derringer, did great too. I think you know him; he’s been here several times.
“What was amazing is there’s this guy, Porter Nash, who just transferred here from Southern California. Ron told me that he’s a sophomore and was a starter for Coronado Christian High School. He looks like he’s seven feet tall but he’s six seven, and he’s only fifteen years old! That’s amazing! I saw Coach Larsen almost drooling watching Porter play offense and defense. I know he’s going to try to get Porter approved so he can join the varsity for the rest of this year, and then he’d be eligible for the playoffs.”
“What do you mean, Jase, when you said that Coach Larsen is going to have to try to get this guy on the team?” Tim asked.
“Doug Lin told us that the CIF has a rule about a kid transferring from one school to another. They want to make sure the school they move to hasn’t influenced them to make the move. I guess in the case of Porter Nash that’s not a big worry. Ron told me his dad was transferred here by the company he works for, so that’s like a done deal.
“To be eligible for the playoffs he’ll have to play some minimum number of games for Hillcrest. I don’t know what that number is, but Doug seemed to think that there are enough games between now and when the playoffs start for him to be eligible. I guess that’s assuming he starts at least with the game after Saturday’s game against Cathedral.”
“I guess I understand those rules,” Tim said, “but it seems hard on a kid who has no control over where or when he’s going to move from one place to another.”
Jason sat thinking about that for a few seconds. “I hadn’t thought about that part, about him maybe not being able to play for Hillcrest. In his case that does seem like it’d be unfair.
“Jen, I thought you were going to the basketball practice with Tom. I didn’t see you there.”
“Tom had to cancel because he came down with a cold. So I went downtown with Carolyn and Bethany and we spent the afternoon shopping. Or, actually, mostly window shopping.”
Jason shook his head. “Girls! I’ll never understand them.” Then he started laughing.
“Don’t be sexist, Jase,” Jen responded and grinned at her brother.
“Alright, now I’ve got a question,” Betty said. “Tim, what did Carter Allen tell you about those three guys who attacked Jason and Ron?”
“He had good news and bizarre news. The good news is that Link Scheer and Devon Barker have pleaded out and there won’t be a trial for them, just a sentencing hearing. Carter thinks they’ll get probation. The bizarre news is that Joe Turner was bailed out by his parents yesterday. He was out for less than a day and was arrested this morning while attempting to rob a mini-mart in Concord. A customer knocked Joe down and held him until the police arrived. The customer saw what was happening and bashed him in his head with a six pack of beer. That knocked him down and the knife slipped out of his hand. This let the customer hold him while the clerk called the police. This is a much more serious charge, a felony because he brandished a weapon, a knife, that he used to threaten the clerk. So Jase, any charges from when he attacked you and Ron won’t be filed. They will file the felony charges instead.”
“So that means… no trial? Ron and I won’t have to testify?”
“Oh, that is outstanding. I can hardly wait to talk to Ron about this. I think maybe he was worried about having to testify.”
“You can call him after dinner,” Betty told Jason.
“Dad, I have a question,” Jen said. “Will I get my SD card back?”
“I asked Carter and he said he’d file that request with the prosecutor, Erik Noonan. Carter said he should have an answer for you by Monday.”
“Good. I need my SD card. It’s got all of my pictures and backups of my contacts. It’s not fair that they wouldn’t give it back to me,” she whined.
“I agree with you, Jen, it isn’t fair,” Jason said.
“It’s not a matter of what’s fair or what’s not,” Tim told them. “It’s a matter of what the law says. We’ll leave it to Carter Allen to handle.”
“Now I think we should concentrate on finishing our dinner,” Betty told her family.
After dinner Jason went upstairs to his room and phoned Ron.
When he answered, Ron didn’t give one of his typical greetings to Jason.
“Hey, Ron. Did you hear about Joe Turner?”
“No. What about him?”
“He tried to rob a mini-mart in Concord this morning. A customer saw what was happening and hit him in his head with a six-pack of beer and knocked him down, then held him until the cops arrived. He had a knife and that makes it a felony, so he’s in deep shit. They aren’t going to charge him with attacking us, so we won’t have to testify in court.”
“Oh. My. God!” Ron said. “That asshole tried to rob a mini-mart and right after his folks paid to bail him out of jail? He deserves to end up in prison. How stupid can anyone be!”
“Yup. I’m glad he got caught. And to be knocked down by a customer hitting him in the head with a six-pack of beer. That is so funny and should be embarrassing for him. Maybe, if he’s smart, he’ll start to realize that he needs to change.”
“No fucking way that’s going to happen, in my opinion. If he was smart, he wouldn’t have tried to attack us, and then wouldn’t have tried to rob a mini-mart.”
“You’re probably right. But when I think about it all I see is how he ruined his life.”
“You know the good thing is we got retribution for what Joe Turner did to us, and he personally did it for us all by himself.”
“I never thought about that. Retribution means punishment, so he got punished without us having to do anything like testify.”
“Yup. He created his own retribution by ruining his life. In my opinion, that’s totally appropriate.”
“Yeah, totally appropriate for us, totally bad for him. Like my grandma says, ‘good riddance for bad rubbish.’ And that’s what Joe Turner is, bad rubbish. Okay, I’ve gotta get downstairs. I’m going to help Mom get the veggies and stuff cut up and prepared for tomorrow.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow, Jase. When do you want me to come over?”
“I’ll check with my mom and find out what she suggests. I’ll give you a call later.”
“Works for me.”
“Okay, later Ron.”
When he finished his call to Ron, Jason got his dirty clothes and brought them down to the laundry room. Then he washed his hands and joined his mother in the kitchen.
“What do you want me to do, Mom?”
“Why don’t you start by washing and trimming the celery and cutting it in quarter inch slices.”
“Okay.” Jason washed two bunches of celery and cut off the ends and the leaves and sliced the rest and put them in a plastic container.
“I finished with the celery. Should I cut the radishes now?”
“Sure. I suggest that you slice them thin, maybe an eighth of an inch. If you keep the leaves on you can use them to hold the radish steady That way you are less likely to cut yourself.”
“Okay, I see what you mean. Do I have to wash them first?”
“There’s four bunches. Should I use all of them?”
“I think so. Each bunch is mostly leaves, and it’s better to have more than you need than to not have enough.”
“Okay.” When he finished with the radishes he seeded and cut up one yellow and one red bell pepper in quarter inch cubes.
“What’s next, Mom?”
“You can wash and spin dry the lettuce and put it in a plastic bag. Then tomorrow all that’s needed is to chop the lettuce into bite size pieces. The cherry tomatoes, garbanzos, artichoke hearts, bacon bits, and olives can be put into dishes tomorrow morning. The avocados need to wait until tomorrow morning. I was thinking, would you still like to have the hard cooked eggs? If so, I’ll cook them now; then in the morning you can cut them into chunks.”
“The hard cooked eggs sounds great. Thanks for remembering them, Mom.”
“What time do you think you’ll want to eat?”
“I don’t know. Everyone’s been told to be here at ten. So noon is too early. How about one or one thirty?”
“That sounds like a good time to schedule your lunch. Aren’t you guys going to want some munchies before lunch? Maybe chips and dip?”
“What kind of dip? We don’t have any dip, do we?”
“I bought four bags of tortilla chips and four jars of salsa, two mild and two spicy. How’s that sound?”
“Great, Mom. Maybe they could be put out around noon?”
“As you and Ron like to say, that sounds like a plan. Now, what about the sodas? We can use the two large cooler chests; they’ll have enough room for four six packs each. I’ll pick up two large bags of ice at the market after breakfast tomorrow morning. That should be enough, don’t you think?”
“I think so. I hope everyone has cold six packs so they won’t melt all the ice.”
“Let’s just assume they’ll be cold.”
“Is Ron’s mom going to pick up the pizzas and wings or have them delivered?”
“Tammy Cantham said that they told her to call and they’ll make the delivery thirty minutes after the call. I’ve already called and placed the order and paid for the pizza and wings. What time is Ron going to be here? He can help you set up the tables and chairs, remove the pool cover, and check the tension of the tennis net and sweep the court.”
“Sweep the court? Why?”
“Check it out. There are a lot of leaves and you don’t want someone slipping on a pile of leaves. What time is Ron going to be here?”
“I don’t know. I said I’d check with you and call him back. What if he comes over right after breakfast, maybe nine thirty?”
“There’s a lot to do in the yard, and you want to be finished and ready for your guests at ten o’clock. I suggest he be here at nine.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right. I’ll go call him now.”
Jason went upstairs and called Ron.
“You’ve reached Ron the magnificent.”
“Hi, yourself. Did you find out what time I should be at your place?”
“My mom suggested that you be here nine. That way we can get everything set up in the back yard, and you can help me finish the stuff for the do-it-yourself salad.”
“Hey, I’m not good at cooking stuff.”
“It’s not cooking. It’s just opening cans or jars and draining them and pouring the content into bowls. There’s artichoke hearts, bacon bits, garbanzos, and olives. There’s also cherry tomatoes but all they need is to be emptied into bowls. No cooking, no biggie. I’ll be chopping up the lettuce and hard cooked eggs. Then everything goes into the refrigerator until we need to bring it out for lunch at around one or one thirty.”
“I can handle any of that. No problemo.”
“So is nine tomorrow good?”
“Yeah, it’s good.”
“So, have you thought any more about that idiot Joe Turner trying to rob a mini-mart?”
“I think it is the best. He gets smashed in the head with a six pack of beer, of all things, by a customer who then sits on him and holds him for the cops. What a loony.”
“What about brandishing a weapon, a knife? My dad said that made it a felony. I think that now he is headed for prison.”
“I agree. It just shows how dumb that asshole is. He needs to be taken off the street and stuffed into a little box with bars on the door and window.”
“Yeah. I’m just glad there’s no trial and we won’t have to testify.” Jason yawned. “I’m tired, and I want to be awake tomorrow. I’m gonna say goodbye and head for bed.”
“Good idea. I’m tired too, and I’ll have to get up at eight to have time to shower and have breakfast and walk to your house.”
“I think you might have to get up earlier than eight. I’m gonna get up at seven thirty.”
“I’ll think about it. But for now, I’ll say goodnight, Jase.”
“Goodnight, Ron. See you in the morning. I love you.”
“I love you too, Jase. Bye.”
Jason closed his cell and went downstairs.
“Mom, Ron will be here at nine tomorrow morning. He’ll help set up in the back yard, and will even help in the kitchen if needed. Is there anything else I can do now?”
“I can’t think of anything else.”
“Then I’m going to my room and get ready for bed. I’ll probably surf the net or watch some TV, then go to bed early the same as a school night.”
“That’s probably a good idea. I’ll say goodnight then.”
Jason went into the living room and said goodnight to his dad and Jen. He went upstairs and looked in to Thea’s room and said goodnight to her. He got ready for bed and sat down to go through his email and IM’s. He got confirmations from everyone they invited to come over tomorrow. He checked Facebook but there wasn’t much new on any of his friends’ pages.
Next he went to the Hillcrest High Blackboard site and logged in. There were no messages for him from any of his teachers, so he logged off.
He sat looking at the screen. Nothing to do, maybe read for a while. What to read? He opened the Kindle app on his tablet and checked what he hadn’t read yet. He liked science fiction and mysteries. There was a science fiction book he’d downloaded when it was priced at zero dollars. Free was good, and for a freshman in high school with limited funds, free books were always a good deal, and most of the free books he selected were good reads, too.
He read Only Human for about an hour and realized he was tired, so he turned off his tablet and the lights and climbed into bed and fell asleep.
Jason woke to Green Day’s See the Light. He rolled over and looked at the time. Seven thirty. “Ugh,” he said to his pillow. But despite the early time, he rolled over and sat up on the side of the bed. He reached and shut off his radio alarm, then got up and went into the bathroom and took a shower and got ready for the day.
“Hi, Mom,” Jason said as he walked into the kitchen and sat down.
“Good morning, Jase. What would you like for breakfast? Maybe bacon and scrambled eggs?”
“Okay, that sounds great. I’ll get the orange juice and bread.”
As he ate breakfast he and his mom talked about the guys who were coming to play tennis and go swimming.
“Did you hear what the weather’s going to be like today?”
“They said it would be seventy-eight. That’s good weather for your get-together, especially for playing tennis.”
“That’s a little cold for swimming, though,” Jason said.
“Don’t forget to turn on the pool heater after you remove the cover. Besides, 78 is almost 80 degrees, so the air won’t be cold for swimming, just a bit chilly when you get out of the pool. So, what are you going to do now?” Betty asked.
“I think I’ll do the lunch stuff first, then when Ron gets here at nine we’ll go outside and get the pool and tennis court ready, then set up the tables and chairs.”
“Alright, but I recommend that you turn on the pool heater now, then remove the cover first when Ron gets here. That way the water will be warm enough for swimming. I’ll go to the store at nine o’clock and get the bags of ice. I moved things around so there’s enough room in the freezer to keep them until you need to set up the cooler chests.”
“Maybe we should set them up as soon as you get back with the ice. That way the chests will be cold and the sodas will stay colder.”
“Alright, that’s a good idea.”
“Is going that early okay?” Jason asked.
“Of course. What I think you should do as soon as you’re finished eating your breakfast is get to work on the items that need to be opened and poured into bowls. I’ll give you a hand with that. Then I can go to the market and get the ice and be back here before Ron arrives.”
“Mom, where are the cooler chests?”
“In the garage, where they’re usually kept.”
“I’ll get them as soon as I finish with the lunch stuff.”
After finishing his breakfast, Jason went outside and turned on the pool heater but didn’t retract the cover. He returned and found the jars and cans with things to be set out for the do-it-yourself salad and opened them. He had difficulty with the two jars of artichoke hearts and the four jars of salsa.
“Stupid lids! I can’t unscrew them,” he said in disgust.
“Here,” Betty said, “let me show you a trick. Let’s take this jar of artichoke hearts. I’ll put a kitchen towel on the sink and fold it so it’s about a foot wide on each side and several layers thick. Okay, now set one of the jars on the towel and tightly hang on to it with your left hand. With the palm of your right hand strike the top of the lid, and be sure to hit it flat and hard. Do that a couple times and you’ll be able to remove the lid. It’ll still be tight, but won’t take much muscle power to unscrew it.”
Jason tried his mother’s suggestion and was amazed that it actually worked.
“Cool! How’d you ever figure this out?” he asked.
“A friend showed me that trick. She learned how to do it from her father. Now, let’s get these items into bowls.”
“I’m not sure about these artichoke hearts, Mom. They’re big, and there aren’t very many. Do you think they should be cut, like maybe in half?”
Betty looked into the bowl where Jason had poured them. “It’s probably better to cut them in quarter-inch pieces. Also, you don’t need any of the water they were packed in. You should drain the olives, too.”
“Darn it, I should have drained them before pouring them into the bowl.”
Betty opened the drawer in the cabinet next to the stove. “Here, use this slotted spoon to carefully remove the olives from the bowl and put them back into the cans. Then pour the liquid out of the bowl and return the olives to the bowl.”
“Cool,” Jason replied. “You have all kinds of clever tricks, don’t you, Mom.”
“That’s why I make the big bucks around here,” Betty replied with a grin.
Jason chuckled. “That’s an old one, Mom,” he replied as he rescued the olives from the other bowl.
“While you’re doing that I’ll drain and cut the artichoke hearts. I hope you noticed that these aren’t the kind that have the leaves, they’re just the artichoke bottoms. I know you don’t like the ones with the leaves and choke.”
“Yeah, I think the leaves are tough.” Jason grabbed a piece of the artichoke heart that his mom had just cut, and popped it into his mouth. “These are good! You can buy them anytime you want.”
“I’m glad you like them. I hope your friends like them as well. They’re on the expensive side, but they’re worth it because they are good in a salad.”
“Ron will definitely like them. Between the two of us we could eat ‘em all.”
“Just make sure you leave enough for your friends,” Betty advised her son.
“I will, Mom.”
The doorbell rang. “That must be Ron. It’s exactly nine o’clock,” Jason said. “I’ll go let him in.”
“Welcome to the Great Halls of Phillips,” Jason said, greeting his boyfriend.
“Thank you, Sire,” Ron responded. “Where may I find the scullery, I’m ready and prepared to work. Wherist might I find yon Veg-O-Matic?”
“The Vego-what-ic?” Jason asked, as soon as he stopped laughing.
Betty overheard their conversation, and as they walked into the kitchen she questioned Ron. “Where did you hear about the Veg-O-Matic, Ron?”
“My grandma has one, and my mom told me all about it. You put vegetables in the top and vegetable juice comes out at the bottom. It’s sort of like a blender, but different.”
“Did you ever see it in operation?” Jason asked.
“Nope,” Ron replied.
“Well, we don’t have one,” Jason said, “and the vegetables are all taken care of. So you don’t have to worry about helping cut and slice and dice any veggies. I’ve washed and cut up the lettuce, so everything is ready to go for our tennis and pool party. So let’s get the pool and tennis courts cleaned off and ready to use.”
“While you boys do that, I’ll go get the ice,” Betty told them. “I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.”
“Okay, Mom,” Jason replied. “Let’s get outside and do the hard work, Ron.”
When they got outside, Ron asked Jason, “So what do we have to do with the pool? And the tennis court?”
“First, I’m going to get the cooler chests out of the garage and bring them into the kitchen. Then I’ll make sure the pool heater is working. I turned it on a while ago so the water would warm up. After that we’ll use the leaf blower to clean the top of the pool cover, getting rid of leaves and other stuff so it won’t get into the pool. Then we’ll sweep the tennis court, mainly to get rid of leaves. Then we’ll check the net to make sure it’s tensioned correctly. Then we’ll move the tables and chairs that are in the pool house outside, dust them off, and we’re all done with the cleaning chores. Finally, just before the guys start to arrive, we’ll roll the pool cover back. That part’s easy because it’s motorized.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Ron agreed. “Let’s get to it.” That’s what they did.
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