Moving to a new town and going to a new high school is always tough; running into the school’s most notorious bully your first morning is especially unfortunate.
When my family moved to Elkridge I thought it would be an okay place. It was surrounded by forest, there were high, snow-covered mountains to the east of town, and everyone I met seemed friendly.
Then I met Lane — on my first day at Elkridge High — though I didn’t know his name until a little later.
I was in the boys’ bathroom taking a leak when Lane came in, growled a “Hey!” and body-blocked me into the urinal, and I fell to my knees. He grabbed the front of my shirt with his left hand and stood over me. “We don’ like faggots. I don’ like faggots. So I’m gonna make your life miserable. Got it, faggot?” He spit out the word ‘faggot’ each time he said it, spraying me with his saliva and bad breath.
As Lane started to draw his right arm back I twisted to the left quickly and punched him in the balls, hard, using an uppercut with my left fist. As Lane bent over in pain, I stood up, fast, bringing my head up into his jaw, knocking him back. Then I shoved him, hard. Lane banged into the edge of the wall of an open stall and ended up crumpled on the floor, laying in a pool of what looked like piss. I walked over and said, “I don’t like bullies, and I’m going to report that you attacked me. Got it, asswipe?” I took his picture with my cell, then I left the bathroom and headed for the office to report that I’d been attacked.
I limped into the office — I didn’t really have to, but my leg actually hurt a little so I decided to make it look good — and told the receptionist that a guy had smashed me into a urinal. She believed it because I was bleeding from both my forehead and right cheek, and I had a bruise on my right arm that was getting bigger. She called Vice Principal Joseph Jenkins who came out and took one look at me and asked her to call the nurse and have her come to his office immediately. He led me into the office and helped me into a chair. He sat in the chair next to me.
“I don’t recognize you, son. What’s your name?”
“Is it okay if I record my questions and your answers about what happened?”
“Sure. That’s a great idea. Can I get a copy?”
“Yes.” He pulled out a mini recorder, turned it on, and set it on his desk.
“I don’t think I’ve seen you in my office previously.”
“This is my first day at Elkridge High School. We moved here from Pleasant Hill; that’s in Contra Costa County east of San Francisco.”
“What high school did you attend there?”
“College Park High School.”
“What grade are you in?”
“Where were you attacked?”
“The boys’ bathroom in building 200.”
“I was taking a leak and this guy came in and slammed me into to the urinal.”
“When did this happen?”
“A couple minutes ago. As soon as I got away from him I came right here to the office to report it.”
“Do you know who attacked you?”
“No. He wasn’t in either of my classes this morning and I don’t remember seeing him before school or between classes.”
“Can you describe him?”
“Yes. I think he’s about my height, is heavy-set, has stringy light brown hair that doesn’t look like it’s been washed in a long time, and lots of acne on his face.”
“Okay, I know who that is. Lane Tibbett. Did he say anything to you?” Mr. Jenkins looked upset.
“Yes. After he slammed me into the urinal he said something like, ‘I don’t like faggots so I’m going to make your life miserable.’ He also said something else as he attacked me but I wasn’t paying any attention because my head was in the urinal.”
“Did you say anything to him?”
“Yeah. As I was running out I yelled that I don’t like bullies and I was going to report him to the office. That’s why I’m here.”
Mr. Jenkins stared at me for a couple seconds. Then he asked, “Were you able to defend yourself some way?”
“Yes. I punched him in the… in his groin, then pushed him away from me so I could get away from him and out of the bathroom. He slipped and fell on the floor in one of the stalls. I left in a hurry and came right to the office.”
“Was there anyone else in the bathroom when this occurred?”
I shook my head. “No, unless someone was in one of the stalls. But I didn’t see anyone.”
We were interrupted by the nurse who came in and checked my injuries.
“I want to clean these cuts and scrapes on your face and bandage two of the cuts. Do you feel like you need to go home?”
“No. This is my first day here and I want to go to the rest of my classes.”
“Okay. When you’re finished with Vice Principal Jenkins please come to my office. Turn left in the hall. The nurse’s office will be the last door on your right before the exit. There’s a sign above the door. The bruise on your arm might become painful. I’ll give you a note for your parents suggesting that you put an icepack on it when you get home after school today and take one ibuprofen tablet then, and take one when you go to bed. When you get up tomorrow change the bandages, using an antiseptic cream on them first. If you’re having increased pain tomorrow morning either see your doctor or see me.”
“Okay, thank you.”
She left, and the vice principal had a few more questions to ask me.
“Do you have your student ID card?”
“Yes.” I pulled it and my class schedule out of my shirt pocket and handed him both of them.
The vice principal asked the receptionist to copy both and then return them to me.
“Steve, I’m glad to meet you and I want to let you know that we don’t put up with bullying at Elkridge High School. I want to apologize for what happened to you this morning. Even though I said I know who it was, I need a positive identification. If I show you a picture of the bully who attacked you, do you think you’d recognize him?”
“Yes, sir. Do you want to do that now?” I wasn’t about to show him the picture I took of this Lane Tibbett guy crumpled on the bathroom floor. I was going to save that for posting on social media if he decided to follow through with his threats.
“Tomorrow morning will be fine. Come in at seven forty-five and we’ll see if you can confirm the identity of the bully who attacked you.” He stood. So did I, using the arm of the chair to help me stand. I was starting to feel aches from where my body had been slammed into the urinal.
I thanked Mr. Jenkins, picked up my student ID card and class schedule on the way out, then walked to the nurse’s office. She cleaned my cuts and scrapes, put antiseptic cream on them, and bandaged the larger cuts. She checked my chest and there were bruises there, too.
“I’m starting to feel sore in other parts of my body. Can I have an ibuprofen tablet, please?”
“Unfortunately, we can’t provide any medication that you take internally. If you go to the student store they will sell you a small bottle of 20 ibuprofen tablets for a dollar. Take one as soon as you get them, with at least eight ounces of water, and another in four hours if you need it.”
“Okay. Where’s the student store? Is it open now?”
“It’s at this end of the Cafeteria building. If you go out the exit at the end of the hall and turn right you’ll see the Cafeteria and the student store. It’s open during school hours.”
“Thank you. Umm… I’m going to be late for my third period class. How do I get a late pass?”
“I’ll give you one. Just give it to the teacher when you get to class. Be sure to buy your ibuprofen tablets first and take one before you go to your class.”
My various aches and pains were mostly gone by the end of third period because of the ibuprofen. I was glad I’d spent a buck buying the little bottle. It would be handy to have in my backpack.
When my fourth period class ended the kid who had been sitting in back of me introduced himself.
“Hi. I’m Jason Lawrence.” I noted that he was a really cute black kid with a killer smile.
“Hi. I’m Steve Corcoran.”
He reached out and we bumped fists.
“I assume you’re new?”
“Yeah. This is my first day here.”
“Were you going to get lunch in the cafeteria?”
“Yes. I figured it would be best to try out the cafeteria food on my first day.”
“That’s a good idea. Food here is okay but sort of boring because it’s repetitive. Come on, I’ll give you some advice about what to avoid because it doesn’t taste good, or because it’s poisonous — like the egg salad sandwiches.” He chuckled.
We got our lunches and Jason picked a table near the back of the cafeteria where no one was sitting.
“You look a little worse for wear. My guess is that either you fell down the stairs in building 500 or Lane Tibbett introduced himself, maybe shoving you down those stairs.”
“Is this Lane Tibbett a little shorter than me, on the heavy side, with stringy light brown hair that looks grimy, and has heavy-duty acne?”
“That’s him. No one else at this school looks anything like him. Welcome to Elkridge High’s least-favorite student. What’d he do?”
“After second period I went to the boys’ bathroom in building 200 and was taking a leak. Someone came in but I didn’t pay any attention, I had just finished and was about to zip up when he slammed into me and drove me against the urinal.”
“Shit. What else did he do?”
“Nothing, other than tell me some shit about he doesn’t like faggots and so he’s going to make my life miserable.”
Jason looked incredulous. “You’re kidding! Lane Tibbett didn’t do anything else to you, like punch or kick you or piss on you?”
“Nope.” I grinned.
“Then I’d like to know how you were able to get away from him and get outta the bathroom without him doing other gross things to you.”
“It took a bit of effort.” I described what Lane had done to me, and how I got away from him. “So, I yelled that I don’t like bullies and I was going to report what he did to me. I took a picture of him before I left the bathroom. Then I got the hell outta there. I went to the office and told the vice principal that I’d been attacked and described the guy who did it, and he told me it was Lane Tibbett. He had the nurse clean and bandage my cuts.”
I pulled out my phone and showed Jason the picture, then turned off my phone and put it back in my pocket.
“Oh, my god! That is Lane. He’s gonna totally go after you now. He’ll get his two cronies to go with him. You need to be real careful, especially after school when you leave the campus to go home. The school can’t do anything if you’re attacked off-campus. Do you have a bike or will someone pick you up?”
“I’m going to walk home. It’s only five blocks.”
“Where do you live?”
“15 Old Oak Lane.”
“I have the directions.” I pulled out the 3x5 card and read what I’d been given by my dad: “‘Leave school from the front entrance. Turn right on Pine Hill Road and go three blocks. At Ridgecrest Avenue continue across the street then turn left and cross Pine Hill Road. Go uphill one block on Ridgecrest then turn right onto Old Oak Lane.’” I put the directions back in my pocket. “Old Oak Lane is a cul-de-sac, and our house is on the right about half-way down. There are twenty new houses; my folks bought one of them when we moved here.
“Say, do you have any classes with Lane?” I asked Jason.
“Nope. He’s a junior. I’m a lowly sophomore.”
“Do you know where Lane Tibbett lives?” I asked.
“No. I see him driving his pickup truck down Pine Hill Road from school sometimes. If you want his address you’d have to ask him. Or hack the school’s computer network.”
“Hack? I like the way that sounds. Mainly because I think if I asked Lane for his address I’m almost positive that I’d be hospitalized until he graduates.”
“You’d likely be in the hospital a lot longer than you think. You said you’d be there until Lane graduates. I don’t think Lane’s passed or ever will pass all of the required courses needed to graduate.” Jason raised his left eyebrow inquisitively and looked at me.
“So what am I supposed to do? Hide out from him until I graduate and leave for college?” I asked.
Jason ignored my question. Instead, he asked, “I want to know something. Why do you want his street address?”
“Insurance. If he comes after me, I’ll go after him. To do that I have to know exactly where he lives to reap my revenge.”
“What does ‘reap’ mean?”
“It sort of means the same as get. It’s spelled r-e-a-p. So it’s like saying get my revenge. I like strange words, and I collect them, like stamps or coins, except this kind of collecting doesn’t cost anything. Of course, it’s not worth anything, either. But it’s something fun to do.”
“Okay, so you want Lane’s home address,” Jason said. “The best way to get it is to hack into the school’s administrative computer network and look it up.”
“Really? You can do that?”
Jason grinned then bowed. “Greetings from @SuperHacker447. Famous in the Twittersphere.”
“You’re a hacker?”
“No, no, and no! I’m a super-hacker. I only hack for the good of mankind. Or my friends. Or against the bad guys. You want Lane’s address, just ask. I’ll have it for you in two, three minutes, max.”
“So, you can hack into the school’s network?”
“When can you do this?”
“How about tonight after dinner. Say, seven o’clock?”
“Your house, I assume. Where do you live?” I asked.
“821 Ridgecrest. That’s maybe three blocks from your street. To start, let’s exchange cell numbers and email and home addresses.”
We did that. “I’ll phone you once I get my mom’s okay to walk to your house after dinner,” I said.
“My mom’s going to pick me up on her way home from work” Jason said. “She can take you home, bypassing Lane and his cronies if they’re out there looking to put a hurt on you. That way we can also get her okay for tonight. I’m assuming your mom will want to talk to my mom and vice-versa, so that can happen when we drop you off. And that way I can see your new house. I’m planning to be an architect, so I like to look at new houses and buildings and get ideas.”
“It’s for sure my mom will want to talk to yours,” I responded. “One time I asked why she always wants to do this and she said it’s required, and that it’s on page 7 of The Mother’s Official Guide to Raising Teenage Boys.”
“Seems to me,” Jason said, “that what we need is The Teenage Boy’s Guide to Understanding Mothers. Hmm… I wonder if it comes in a Kindle version.
“But — speaking of classes — how much homework do you have? Our respective moms are going to want to know how much we have before giving their okay so we can do something non-homework related. Of course, we won’t tell my mom about that part. And not your mom, either.”
I took a few seconds to think about my assignments from this morning’s classes. “I have about half of my Algebra 2 problems left to do. I finished the others in class. I have to do the reading for Contemporary Issues & Public Policy. I don’t know what I’ll have for my Spanish 3 and AP Chemistry classes; they’re this afternoon. So far I don’t have any tests or quizzes tomorrow that I’ll have to study for. Oh… wait… there’s that reading we have to do for our English 10 class.”
“You’re taking AP Chemistry and Spanish 3? Whoa! Heavy duty,” Jason remarked.
“Not really. Taking AP Chemistry means I won’t have to take freshman chem at UC Berkley. I took Spanish 1 in middle school and Spanish 2 last year. I started Spanish 3 before we moved here, and I’m a little ahead of the class here. Are you taking a foreign language?”
“I took Spanish 1 in middle school and Spanish 2 last year. That’s it for foreign languages for me.”
“What other classes are you taking?”
“I’m interested in computers, so I’m taking Computer Programing this year and I’ll take Digital Art and Design next year.”
“When do you have Computer Programing?” I asked.
“Fifth period. Why?”
“Me, too, fifth period.”
“So, you’re in the Computer Programing class with Farinholdt, right?” Jason asked.
I pulled out my schedule and showed it to him. “Yup. See, it’s right there.”
“Let’s see.” Jason handed me his schedule. Then he read my schedule out loud: “First period: Contemporary Issues & Public Policy — we call it CIPP, pronounced ‘sip’; it’s our tenth grade Social Studies class; second period: Spanish 3; third period: Algebra 2 and Trigonometry, with me; fourth period: English 10, with me; Lunch with me; fifth period: Computer Programing, with me; sixth period: Chemistry; and seventh period: PE, with me. Cool. We have four classes and lunch together, and we both have CIPP but different periods.”
I handed him his schedule, but he waved it away. “You can keep it. It’s a copy.”
“Since we have mostly the same classes, and three academic classes together, how about we get together on a regular basis to do our homework and study for tests?” I asked.
“Sounds like a plan! Now we’ve gotta get going. Computer Programing is in room 607 and that’s in the science building and it’s just about the farthest building to get to from here.”
As I sat in Computer Programing I kept looking at Jason who was sitting across the table facing his display — and me. It seemed I had my first friend at Elkridge High. I liked the way he looked. I wondered about him… but, no. Black kids are never gay. Oh, well. Being friends would be just fine.
When PE was over we walked to the administration building where we waited for Jason’s mom. She arrived in the pickup area after about five minutes.
“Steve, this is my mom, Dora Lawrence. Mom, this is Steve Corcoran. His family just moved to Elkridge, and today was his first day in school. He’s a sophomore, and we’re in the same Algebra 2 and Trig class. I suggested that he come over after dinner and we’ll work on our algebra homework tonight.”
“I think that’s a good idea. Assuming you’re not just copying his answers.” She grinned and raised one eyebrow.
“Mom! I’m getting an A in Algebra 2 and so is Steve. We don’t need to copy each other’s answers.”
“Jason, you should be able to tell by now when I’m just pulling your leg. Where do you live, Steve?”
I told her my address and where my street was. “If you can come in you can meet my mom and I can get her okay to go to your house after dinner so we can finish our algebra homework.”
When we got to my house I did the introductions of Jason and his mom and my mom. I grabbed his arm. “Mom, I’m going to show Jason the house. He’s planning to be an architect and likes to look at new houses.”
“That’s fine if Dora has time,” my mom said.
“It’s fine with me,” Jason’s mom said. They started on some mom-talk, and their voices trailed off as I led Jason on a quick tour of our house.
“This is very nice,” Jason said. “Ten foot ceilings, a big fireplace in the family room which will come in handy this winter, and an open concept design so you can see into the dining and family rooms from the kitchen.”
“The thing I like about this plan,” I said, “is that there are two master suites. My folks have one — the larger one, of course — and I have the other. It has a private bathroom that I don’t have to share. My twin brothers share one of the two other bedrooms. They decided they didn’t want to have separate bedrooms.”
“You have twin brothers?”
“Yeah. They’re identical twins, twelve years old, in the eighth grade, and today was their first day at Elkridge Middle School.”
“Cool. I’ve never seen identical twins before. Can I meet them?”
“Sure. Let’s go upstairs and find out if they’re home or if they are in detention already.”
“Detention? On their first day at school?” Jason looked confused.
“They like practical jokes. Which they pull on others, of course. They prefer pulling them on teachers, which is why they get caught more often than not. I think they get a high from being found out, as well as middle school creds that the publicity gives them. Of course, sometimes they get a day or two of detention to reflect on what they did and on the error of their ways.” I laughed, and so did Jason.
We got to the twins’ bedroom and found them lying on their beds, each reading their copy of what looked like the same textbook titled ‘World Geography’.
“Hey, guys. How was your first day at school?” I asked.
“Okay,” Donny said. “Boring and same-as, same-as,” Danny said.
“Guys, this is Jason Lawrence. He lives three blocks from us. Jason, this is Donny and that is Danny.”
They got up and walked over to Jason and shook hands. “Nice to meet you,” Danny said. “Are you a brainiac like Steve?” Donny asked.
“If you mean do I do well in school and get good grades, the answer is yes. If you mean something else, like am I a comic book cyborg named the Brainiac that does evil deeds, the answer is no.”
Danny turned to Donny. “I like him.”
“Me, too,” Donny said.
“I don’t see any moving boxes stacked up in here, so it looks like you two finished all of your unpacking,” I said.
Donny laughed. “Look,” he said, and he opened the sliding door on their closet. It was filled with unopened packing boxes.
“We’re neat but we’re lazy,” Danny said. “And proud of it,” Donny added.
Jason had been watching the twins. He turned to me. “They really are identical. Can you tell them apart?”
“Yup. It’s easy. Danny has a little scar caused when he fell down and hit his chin on the edge of the swimming pool at school when they were in the seventh grade.”
“The middle school they went to had a swimming pool?” Jason asked.
“Uh huh,” Danny answered. “We went to Pleasant Hill Middle School and they have a pool. We learned to swim in the sixth grade.”
“That’s where I went to middle school, too,” I said. “I also learned to swim when I was in the sixth grade.”
“That’s very cool. That’s the first middle school I’ve ever heard of that has a swimming pool.”
“Okay, guys. I’m going to show Jason my room. And by the way, all of my boxes are unpacked and everything is put away.”
“Yeah, yeah, rub it in!” Donny said, with a grin.
“You’ll find that Steve is a neat freak,” Danny told Jason.
“Nice to have met you two. You’re the first identical twins I’ve ever seen live and close-up. I think it’s cool.”
“Glad we met you, Jason,” Donny said. “Same here,” Danny added.
We walked down the hall and into my room. Jason looked around. “Your brothers are right. You are a neat freak.” He looked at me and grinned. “I am, too.”
“I like being neat and organized,” I said. “Most of my friends in Pleasant Hill were slobs. Clean clothes stacked on the furniture, dirty clothes on the floor, bed never made, stuff shoved under the bed, some of which was probably there since they were seven years old, books and papers piled up everywhere. Phil, one of my friends, even had dirty dishes stacked on his desk and on the floor. He was a total slob. His mom told him that she wasn’t going to clean his room anymore. But he wouldn’t clean it, either, until his mom would get his dad to take his laptop away from him until he cleaned his room. They had to do that every few weeks, usually when the smell got to them. Finally, I told him that we’d have to meet at my house since I couldn’t stand his mess. He just laughed and said that was fine with him, he couldn’t stand his mess, either.”
“I don’t get it,” Jason said. “Once things are organized it’s easy to keep them organized. And since my room is neat, my mom doesn’t mind cleaning it, which is something I don’t want to do if I can avoid it. I don’t need any more chores.”
“You have any brothers or sisters?” I asked.
“One brother, Josh. He’s seventeen and is a freshman at UC Berkeley.”
“Cool. He’s living on campus?”
“Yeah. He’s my best friend. I really miss him.”
“What’s his major?”
“Math and physics. He was valedictorian when he graduated last year. He also played football. He got the ‘big’ gene from my folks. He’s about six-four and weighs 220 pounds. He’s one guy that Lane never tried to mess with after the first time.”
“What happened the first time?”
“Josh broke Lane’s right arm in two places when Lane attacked him in the hall. Lane went down and was out of school for about a month. When he came back he had a big cast on his right arm.”
“Did Josh get in trouble?”
“Nope. There were too many witnesses — including Vice Principal Jenkins. Lane was wearing brass knuckles and tried to slug Josh. Josh grabbed Lane’s wrist — the one with brass knuckles on his hand — and stopped the punch in mid-swing. Josh twisted Lane’s arm breaking both bones in his forearm. That was his right arm, and he’s right handed. Lane was laying on the floor screaming. The kids who saw it all applauded. Josh seemed surprised that it had happened. He said he expected Lane would simply fall in the direction that he was twisting his arm.”
“Maybe Lane has weak bones?”
“More like Josh has huge muscles, and Lane is fat and weighs too much and doesn’t exercise.”
“I’ll have to keep that in mind if I’m attacked by Lane again. What happened to him because of the brass knuckles? At College Park High he’d have been expelled and sent to Olympic High. That’s the continuation high school in the district.”
“We don’t have a continuation high school in our district. Lane was suspended for four weeks. When he came back he was behind in every one of his classes, so he was given the choice of going to summer school or taking the tenth grade over again. He went to summer school.”
“I assume Lane leaves you alone.”
“Yes, he does. He knows if he does anything to me Josh would come back from Cal to go after him and hurt him. Badly hurt him.”
After dinner I walked outside then turned around and walked back into the house. It was cold! I went upstairs and got my heavy black hoodie and put it on, said bye to my folks, then walked three blocks up Ridgecrest to Jason’s house. He was waiting for me and opened the door as soon as I rang the doorbell. “Hey! You found it,” he said.
“No way to get lost with the truly excellent directions you provided,” I said.
“You ready for Algebra 2 and Trig problem solving?” Jason asked.
“As much as I can be,” I replied.
“Come on in and I’ll introduce you to my dad. He works for the county building department. He probably knows all about the development you moved into.”
Mr. Lawrence was tall and very well-muscled. He looked like a pro football player. He was also very friendly.
“Let’s go to my room and get started on our algebra homework,” Jason said. “By the way, my mom baked an apple pie and we have vanilla ice cream to go with when we’re finished with our homework and our little project.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I responded.
We each did the rest of the Algebra 2 problem set that we hadn’t finished in class, then we compared our answers. “Perfect,” Jason said. “Either we have all of them right or we have all of them wrong.”
I grinned. “I vote for the ‘all of them right’ choice.”
“Me, too. Now, let me show you the magic. Let’s move to my computer and I’ll get started.” Jason turned on his desktop PC. “I built this PC myself. It’s state of the art with the latest AMD Ryzen 7 1800X processor, 32 gigs of RAM, two four-terabyte hard disk drives, two 256 gig solid-state drives, a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card, and it runs Windows 10 Pro. It backs up to a storage array in the basement and it’s connected to the internet through a hardware firewall and a VPN.”
“You have a basement?” I asked.
“Uh-huh. Since we’re on a hillside half the house is over a full-height basement. My dad, Josh, and I finished it, which was mostly putting up drywall and painting.”
I looked at his PC. “You’re talking about a ten-thousand dollar computer here,” I said. “Your family must be rich.”
“Not so. I paid for it myself through what I make doing white-hat consulting for some major corporate clients.”
“Whoa! Do your folks know about this?”
“They have to. A teen can’t incorporate or head a corporation. So my dad and mom fill those roles. And they get a salary and benefits. So do I.”
“That’s… jeez, I don’t know what to say. I’m jealous! But I’m not smart enough to start something like that.”
“You probably are smart enough. But that’s for a future conversation. Let’s do a bit of hacking, okay?”
Jason started his PC. “I always power it off when I’m not using it. It’s a security measure. Also, I don’t have any email accounts on it, either. I have them on my laptop.
“Okay, we’re going into the school district website first. I have a fake secure login that I use. Just as if I worked there, which I don’t. Okay, I’m in. Now I have to access the Elkridge High School student files. There they are.” He pointed at the screen. “Now the student file for the juniors. This is such a poorly designed system! I should go after the district and get a job to redesign everything. Okay, here we are. Here’s the record for Tibbetts, Lane. Write this down: 2922 Pine Hill Road. You want the phone number?”
“No. He probably uses a cellphone, so I don’t need the house phone. But I do want his age and birthdate.”
“Okay, done. He’s 16 years old. He was born on October 22nd, 2001, so he turned 16 two weeks ago. I’ll log out now and close the VPN to erase my footsteps and power down the PC… done, and done. By the way, why did you want his age and birthdate?”
“There are all kinds of regulations about when you can drive by yourself, when you can have passengers in the car with you, and so on. Since Lane has a truck I could bring down the law on him if he’s breaking one of those regulations.
“Okay, that makes sense. Now, are you ready for apple pie?”
And it was good, very good. It was a home-made apple pie with fresh apples, not one of the pre-made ones in the supermarket bakery, or those frozen ones you buy and take home to bake, so the apples were still a little crunchy. The vanilla ice cream melted and mixed in with the filling making it even better. I thanked Mrs. Lawrence, said goodbye to Mr. Lawrence and Jason, put on my black hoodie, and headed home with my completed Algebra 2 and Trig homework.
As I turned onto Old Oak Lane I saw someone standing in our driveway. I stayed on the other side of the street and slowly walked up the street until I could see that it was Lane Tibbett, spray-painting ‘FAGGOTTS’ on our garage door. The asshole didn’t even know how to spell the slur he was painting!
I pulled out my cellphone and started recording what he was doing on video. Lane turned in my direction, saw me, accidentally dropped the can of spray paint in the bushes, and when he couldn’t find the can he ran down the street. I kept recording as he got under the street light at Ridgecrest. He was clearly visible as he looked back before he turned down Ridgecrest and disappeared. He might not have recognized me because of my hoodie; maybe he thought I was an adult taking a picture of his handiwork.
I ran home and rang our doorbell.
“Steve, why did you ring the bell?” my dad asked as he opened the door. “Did you forget your house key?”
“No, I have it. I want you to come out and see what Lane Tibbett painted on our garage door.”
He walked to the driveway and turned around. “What the… you know who did that? Lane somebody?”
“Yes. Lane Tibbett. He’s a junior at Elkridge High and a bully. I got him spraying it on video. When he saw me he started running, and when he got to the streetlight at the end of our street he turned around and I could totally see who it was. Even better than that, he dropped the can of spray paint right there in those bushes and it’ll have his fingerprints on it.”
“Let’s call 911 now,” Dad said.
“I can call from my cellphone,” I offered.
“It’s better if I call from our house phone. That way they’ll connect the phone number to our home address. They can’t do that with a cellphone number.”
Dad dialed the number. “Where’s Mom?” I asked as we waited for the call to be answered.
“She went to the school board meeting.”
“Okay.” My mom was hired as the Curriculum Director for the Elkridge Unified School District. That’s why we moved to Elkridge. Yeah, that’s the same school district that Jason had hacked into to get Lane’s address and his age and birthdate. I assumed that my mom told Jason’s mom where she worked. But I wasn’t sure. Didn’t make any difference, anyway.
While we waited I told Dad what happened when Lane Tibbett attacked me at school today. He was fuming. “Did you tell your mom when you got home?”
“Yes. She was upset and told me to avoid him. She oughta know what it’s like being a high school student. Avoiding bullies isn’t easy when you’re in the same building with them for over seven hours a day.”
A sheriff’s car arrived about two minutes later. Dad had told the dispatcher that it was a hate crime; that might have helped. Officer James Alexander took pictures of our garage door, and I gave him a jump drive with a copy of the video I took and pointed out the spray paint can.
“Do you know who this kid is?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “His name is Lane Tibbett. He’s a junior at Elkridge High.”
“Yes. You know about him?”
“His father is an attorney and the president of the Board of Supervisors. We might have some problems making charges stick on Lane Tibbett for what he did.”
“You’re kidding!” Dad said. “You have the video that clearly identifies him, and his fingerprints should be on the can of spray paint he was using.”
“My guess is what they’ll do is charge him with malicious mischief, a misdemeanor, and he’ll be fined and be required to pay restitution for repainting the garage door.”
“So, what are you going to do now?”
“I’m going to write a report and turn it in along with the can of spray paint and the video to the district attorney’s office. Since Lane Tibbett is a juvenile under 18, he will be charged in juvenile court.”
“Can we be present at his trial?” Dad asked.
“It probably won’t go to trial, but if it does, you couldn’t attend unless you or your son are called as witnesses.”
“So I can be there if I’m called as a witness or if my son is called as a witness?”
“As long as your son is a minor you need to be present when he’s giving testimony.”
“Can I hire someone to come tomorrow and repaint the garage door?”
“Yes, but be sure to take pictures of it in the daylight first and send them to me.” He handed his card to my dad. “My email address is on the back. Get three bids for repainting and pick the lowest of the three. Send a copy of the invoice to me at the address on the front of my card. You can find both painters and garage door repair people in the buisness pages in your phone book.”
“When will we find out what’s going to be done to him?” I asked.
“More important, when will we be reimbursed for the cost of repainting the garage door?” Dad asked.
“Someone from the DA’s office will contact you, probably next week. You can ask him or her those questions.”
After more conversation, and a complete replay of everything when my mom arrived home from her meeting, I was majorly pissed. I sent an email to Jason including a copy of the video I’d taken. Then I went to bed. I had a dream about me and Jason. It was a very happy dream, if you know what I mean.
In the morning when I left for school I looked at the garage door. Dad had covered it with an old sheet, hiding what Lane had written. He’d also left me a note that he’d taken pictures of the garage door and emailed them to Officer Alexander.
I waited for Jason and we walked to school together with Donny and Danny. My brothers headed to the middle school when we got to Pine Hill Road, and Jason and I continued to Elkridge High School. Jason went to his locker and I went to Vice Principal Jenkins’ office.
The receptionist looked up. “Can I help you?” she asked.
“Mr. Jenkins told me to meet with him this morning.”
“Oh, yes. He asked me to show you a picture and tell me if you recognize the student.” She took a photo and handed it to me.
“That’s the kid who slammed me into the urinal in one of the boys’ bathrooms. I was told his name is Lane Tibbett.”
“Alright, thank you, Steven.”
So, that was it. I wondered what would happen to Lane. I hoped he would be sent to juvie, but since his father was a lawyer and a County Supervisor the chances of that were probably slim. Getting him on the spray painting thing was probably more serious.
I was in my first period class when a girl came in and gave the teacher a note. She waited while he read it, then he looked up. “Steve Corcoran, please go with the office assistant to the administration office.”
I picked up my backpack, put my textbook and notebook away, and I followed her out of the classroom.
“Do you know why I’ve been called to the office?” I asked the girl.
“No, but Vice Principal Jenkins said to tell you you’re not in trouble.”
I grinned. “Thanks.”
When I got to the vice principal’s office I was told to go right in.
“Steve, I’m sorry to pull you out of your class, but I needed to tell you that one of your brothers, Daniel Corcoran, was injured this morning by Lane Tibbett. An Elkridge policeman was there and saw it happen. He arrested Lane for assault and battery. Lane’s in jail awaiting arraignment. Your brother wasn’t seriously injured but was taken home for the rest of the day. Your mother requested that you be advised so you wouldn’t find out through the school rumor mill.”
“Did my mom say she’s taking the day off to be at home with Danny?”
“Did you hear that Lane spray painted ‘faggots’ on our garage door last night? He didn’t even spell it correctly. I was on my way home from Jason Lawrence’s house and I saw Lane doing it, so I took a video with my cellphone. I guess he thought I was an adult because I had my heavy hoodie on; he couldn’t see my face. My dad called the police.”
“I hadn’t heard about it. Anyway, that’s not something that would be handled as a school matter. The attack on your brother was on middle school property so it is both a criminal matter and a school matter.”
“His spray painting our garage door and beating up my little brother are both criminal matters. I hope he gets time in juvie for both of them. The policeman last night said Lane’s father is an attorney and is on the County Board of Supervisors and is able to get him off every time he gets in trouble.”
“I can’t comment on that,” Vice Principal Jenkins said, but then he shrugged his shoulders which I assumed meant that he thought Lane might get off again. That was bullshit, in my opinion. If he did get off, it would be time for me to fight back.
“Do you want to call home to find out how your brother is doing?”
“Yes, thank you. Where can I make the call?”
“Follow me. There’s a small meeting room where you’ll have privacy.”
I called Mom and she said Danny’s only injury was a black eye. She also said he was moaning about having to stay at home. She said she decided to take him back to school in time for lunch if he was feeling okay. I told her he probably wanted to go to school so he could show off his injuries. We laughed about it, and she agreed. She put Danny on the phone and I said hi, and he described what happened. Apparently Lane had found out that Danny and Donny were my brothers, and he was trying to get back at me for what happened in the boys’ bathroom at school.
“So, what did he say to you?” I asked.
“He grabbed my right arm and held it real tight. I tried to kick him in his kneecap but he slugged me on the left side of my face. Then he said, ‘Tell that faggot brother of yours that the next time he tries anything with me it’ll be you that gets it again and you’ll end up in the hospital.’ He shoved me on the ground and turned around and tried to walk away. That’s when the cop grabbed him and arrested him. The cop handcuffed him and made him sit on the ground and wait until a patrol car arrived to take him to juvie. Other kids came around and began laughing and clapping and saying things like, ‘Now you’re finally gonna get it, Lane,’ and a lot of other things using cuss words. The cop asked me for my name and address and where I went to school, then he called the Elkridge Middle School principal who came out with the nurse and she checked me and decided I should go home. So I got on my bike and rode home. By the time Mom got home she told me the principal had already called her at work and she was ready to go talk to Lane’s mother and complain about him. I said let the cops take care of it, and….”
I interrupted him. “Okay, okay, Danny, that’s enough for now. We’ll talk more when I get home from school.”
So Lane wanted revenge. Two could play that game. Somebody had to stop Lane, and I decided I was the one to do it. I put on my grey hoodie; it was sort of beat up because I’d worn it when I worked in the yard when we lived in Pleasant Hill.
I decided to practice how I’d walk like an old man who was shuffling along so Lane wouldn’t recognize me. I went into our back yard and walked back and forth, hunched forward, trying to make my shuffling look natural. After about ten minutes of trying it out I heard someone talking to me across our back fence.
“Son, you’re sort of walking like an old man, but you’re hunching over too far. It doesn’t look real.” It was a woman’s voice. “If you’re going to be an old man in a play at school you need to look realistic.”
I walked to the fence and looked through the lattice that was along the top. An elderly lady was standing on the other side peeking through the lattice at me and grinning. “Hi,” I said.
“Hello, young man. I’m your back-fence neighbor, Laurel Marshall. I live at 2927 Pine Hill Road.”
“My name is Steve Corcoran and I live at 15 Old Oak Lane. My mom and dad and twin twelve-year-old brothers Danny and Donny live here, too. We just moved in this week.”
“So are you practicing for for a school play?”
“I not planning to be in a school play. I’m walking this way for something else. I decided to take a little walk down your street. I want to see where Lane Tibbett lives without him figuring out that it’s me.”
“He lives across the street from me. By the way, I was out taking a walk last evening and I decided to see the new homes where you and your family are living. I saw what Lane was doing to one of the garage doors. I saw someone taking pictures. That was you, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, I was taking a video using my cellphone. And it was our garage door Lane was spray painting. I got a good video of Lane spraying the door and gave a copy of it to the police. Lane dropped his spray paint can and it could have his fingerprints on it. The police collected it. I didn’t see you, though.”
“I was standing near the end of the cul de sac, and when you went back inside your house I walked by and took some pictures. When I got home I phoned the police and said I’d witnessed what happened at 15 Old Oak Lane and that I recognized Lane Tibbett as the miscreant and that I had pictures of what he’d done.”
“Thank you! Besides doing that last night, he attacked one of my brothers at Elkridge Middle School this morning. A policeman was right there and saw it and arrested Lane. Now he’s being held waiting for his arraignment. I hope that’ll get him some time in juvie.”
“Don’t count on it. His father always finds a way to get him out of trouble. I saw him coming home with his father this afternoon. Then a bunch of his juvenile delinquent friends showed up and they drove off in Lane’s pickup truck.”
“He’s not old enough to drive with other teens in his truck unless there’s an adult 25 or older going with him.”
“Well, he certainly drives his noisy friends around in that truck all the time. They all look his age.”
“If he doesn’t get some time in juvenile hall I’m working on a plan to get him back for attacking my little brother.”
The need for the plan became necessary the next day when Lane appeared at school. He avoided me, and I didn’t go out of my way to confront him. I decided to finalize my plan and tell Jason and Mrs. Marshall. I talked to Jason on the way home from school, and when I got home I phoned Mrs. Marshall and told her I had a plan.
“I’d like to hear your plan, young man. It’s about time someone taught him a lesson. Maybe I can help in some little way. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow after school? I might have some ideas for you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Marshall. Can I bring my friend Jason with me?”
“Certainly. I’ll have some home-made chocolate chip cookies ready for the two of you.”
I explained my plan as the three of us munched on some of the best chocolate chip cookies I’d ever eaten. “I got the idea from something you said, Mrs. Marshall. You said Lane and his cronies get in his pickup truck and drive off. But Lane is 16 and he can’t drive if the only others in his truck are kids. So he is carrying passengers. Is that correct?”
“That’s right,”, she replied. “One or two get into the cab with him and the others ride in the back of the truck.”
“In the bed of the truck?” Jason asked.
“Yes, sitting right in there.”
“That’s totally against the law no matter how old the driver is!” I said.
“What a moron,” Jason growled.
“Then here’s what we oughta do,” I continued. “When he gets home from school and drives off, can you call the sheriff’s office and report him, Mrs. Marshall?”
“Tell the dispatcher that a neighbor boy who’s 16 just drove off with kids riding with him, and some of them are in the bed of his pickup truck,” Jason added. “And say you’re worried those kids in the truck will all be hurt or killed.”
We all agreed it would be a great way to get back at Lane.
“How long do I have to sit watching his house?” Mrs. Marshall asked. “Lane doesn’t get home at the same time every day.”
“That’s probably because he has detention some days,” Jason said.
“I could watch for him,” I said.
“That’s going to take a lot of time. I could help; we could do it in shifts,” Jason offered.
Mrs. Marshall shook her head. “Boys, that isn’t going to work. You have homework to do every night. You both also have family obligations. There has to be a better way.”
I looked at Jason. “Between us we should be able to come up with some automatic way to find out when Lane comes home.”
He shook his head. “Knowing when Lane comes home isn’t enough. What we need is something to let us know when his truck moves, and I know how to do that. We need to hide a GPS tracker under the truck bed. I’ll program my computer to text us when the truck moves so we can call Mrs. Marshall.”
Mrs. Marshall interrupted. “I’m not as disconnected with the technology you boys use as you might think,” she said. “You can have your computer text me. I have one of those smart cellphones, and I know how to take a video.”
“Trouble is,” I said, “we need to know when it moves with more than just Lane in it. If the GPS tracker shows movement, once we contact Mrs. Marshall so she can call the sheriff’s office the truck will be gone and she won’t know if Lane was by himself or with people in the truck with him. Hmm… is there a GPS that has a mike?” I asked.
“A microphone… hmm, clever idea!” Jason remarked. “Probably not, but there’s no reason we can’t find some sort of voice transmitter and install that with a GPS. Problem is going to be battery life. It won’t be somewhere that is accessible enough for us to update batteries. And anything we attached to his truck would eventually be discovered.”
“How about a video camera aimed at his truck? That assumes that he always parks in the same place, of course. Could you program your computer to text me when it senses movement around the truck?” Mrs. Marshall asked.
“Wait a minute,” Jason said. “Are we overdesigning this thing? First, is this a one-time thing we’re doing, or will it be ongoing?”
I held up My index finger. “One-time. To get Lane arrested and lose his learner’s permit. Right?” I asked.
“There are provisional permits and provisional licenses,” I said. “He probably has a provisional license now. A provisional permit is the one where you learn to drive with an adult in the car with you, then you pass the written test, have a certain number of hours of driving experience with an adult in the car with you, then you get your provisional license. With that you can drive a car, or a pickup truck, but there are rules about who can ride with you and when you can drive and what happens if you violate those rules. Oh, yeah. And every passenger must be wearing a seatbelt.”
“How do you know all this stuff?” Jason asked.
“We had a class at College Park High that covered things like driver licenses, opening bank accounts, getting credit cards, paying taxes, things like that. Since I wanted to get my provisional permit as soon as possible, I paid special attention to that part of the class.”
“We should have something like that here,” Jason commented.
I continued, “If Lane is caught, he’ll lose his provisional license. It’s up to the district attorney and the judge to decide how long he’ll be without it. I’d hope that his arrest for painting that slur on our garage door and beating up and threatening Danny, who’s only 12, would be considered, but I don’t know how the juvenile court works. One thing about driving is that it’s a privilege not a right. So his driving privilege to have a provisional license can be taken away.”
“What if he only has a provisional permit?” Mrs. Marshall asked.
“I can’t believe his parents — his father especially, since he’s an attorney — would allow him to drive by himself or with other teens if all he had was a provisional permit. It’s only for learning to drive,” I said. “Mrs. Marshall, do you know if there are some days when you hear Lane and his friends getting in his truck and driving off?”
“It’s probably several days a week. If you want to know one day I’d say Friday and Saturday.” She chuckled. “That’s two days, isn’t it. But I’d say those are the days I most often hear goings-on across the street.”
“Then we should hang around this Friday afternoon, and if necessary on Saturday, too,” Jason suggested. “Another thing, maybe Mrs. Mathews can take a video of the kids getting in Lane’s truck. That way the sheriff will have two videos of him, the one with him spraying your garage door and then one loading a bunch of guys into his truck.”
“Why don’t we take them?” I asked, then I realized why — so I continued, “Of course, if she takes them and she calls the sheriff’s office she can tell them that she took the video. Mrs. Mathews, would you be willing to take the video with your cellphone?”
“Yes. I’ve taken some videos of my grandkids, so I know how to do that. Thing is, it’ll be through my window and all the way across the street and one house down. It might not be very clear.”
“That’s okay,” Jason said. “I can sharpen a video you take on your phone once I get the file. I have a program to do that.”
“I think we’re all set,” I said. “Jason, can your mom pick us up from school Friday? That way we can get here before Lane gets home.”
“I’m absolutely positive she’ll pick us up. We’ll be here by 3:30.”
“Does that work for you, Mrs. Mathews?”
“Yes, it does. This is very exciting. I hope we get that little… well, you can fill in whatever word you’d like.” She chuckled, and Jason and I burst out laughing.
Though it took us over two weeks to get things set up because Lane was in juvie and there was a hearing (not a trial) — his father got him off — it ended up working out just like we’d planned, maybe even better.
We were at Mrs. Marshall’s when she took a video of a bunch of boys piling into the bed of Lane’s truck and two others cramming into the seat next to Lane. He pulled out and drove away; she stopped taking the video and called the sheriff’s station and told them what she’d seen, saying how unsafe it all looked to her. While she was talking to the dispatcher we saw Lane’s truck racing down the street toward the high school and middle school.
It turned out that there was a sheriff’s patrol car that just happened to be near Elkridge High, and it received the call from the dispatcher. Lane drove his truck right past the sheriff, going much faster than the 25-miles-per-hour speed limit in a school zone.
Jason had an app on his phone that let him listen in to police calls. We heard a brief statement that a pickup truck with an ‘unlicensed driver’ and ‘a bunch of kids in the truck bed’ had been stopped and apprehended and that they needed a van to transport all seven of them.
“All seven of them?!” Jason exclaimed.
“Good!” Mrs. Marshall said. She turned to Jason. “Can you email the video to the sheriff’s office? The dispatcher gave me an email address and a case number. I wrote it down. Here it is.”
Jason viewed the video to make sure it was okay. “I’m going to email it from you to me, then I’ll clean it up a bit and sharpen it. Then I’ll email it to the sheriff and to you, too.”
“That’s very nice of you to do that, Jason. I might use today’s technology, but I wouldn’t have a clue how to do what you just described.”
While Jason was saving the video and emailing it to himself, I had a question that I wanted to ask Mrs. Marshall.
“I know why I’m glad that Lane’s getting what’s coming since he attacked me on my first day at school, he slugged my little brother, and he painted…” I decided to spell it out instead of saying it, “he painted ‘f-a-g-g-o-t-t-s’ on our garage door. Why are you glad Lane’s getting what he deserves?”
“He backs that stupid truck onto my driveway to turn and go north instead of making a U-turn in the street. He did it again today. That truck drips oil on the concrete. My driveway is starting to look like it should be inside an auto repair shop instead of in front of a residence. I’ve complained to his father, but you can guess how much good that did! Now we’ve got him. If things go the way they should, his license will be taken away and he won’t be driving that truck for a long time.”
“I finished emailing the video,” Jason said. “I’ll have it ready to email later this afternoon.”
Mrs. Marshall smiled. “Well, I think that it’s time to have a small celebration. Since you two can’t drink alcoholic beverages, and because I don’t have any champagne anyway, how about we settle for some freshly baked carrot cake. I’ll have coffee and you can have milk or coffee, whichever you prefer.”
Her carrot cake was even better than her chocolate chip cookies. She insisted that we each have a second slice, and we didn’t want to refuse her offer because that might make her think we didn’t like her cake. That’s a joke: we loved having seconds as much as we loved her carrot cake — along with a glass of milk.
When we finished Jason and I rinsed our plates and glasses and put them in her dishwasher.
“Mrs. Marshall, thanks for your fantastic cake,” Jason said.
“I agree, thanks. You should open a bakery,” I said.
“Oh, my, no! That would be much too much work. I want to just enjoy my retirement. Besides, it’s fun to see how much you two enjoy what I made. I love baking, but just for friends.”
While she’d been talking she cut what was left of the cake into two sections that she put in plastic containers. She explained that I got the larger one in order to accommodate my brothers. Jason was happy with what he got.
“Here, take these to your families.”
We thanked her for the cake and for helping us stop Lane. “I think it’s time for us to head home,” I said.
“You want to stop at my house? We can do our homework together,” I suggested.
“Okay, but why don’t we go to my house first and I’ll sharpen the video and email it. Then I can tell my mom that I’m going to your house to do our homework.”
“That’s a good plan!” I replied.
So, that’s what we did. I watched Jason use Premiere Elements to enhance the video to make the colors brighter. He emailed it to the address the sheriff’s dispatcher gave Mrs. Marshall, spoofing the sender’s address so it looked like it came from her; he included her email address, my email address, and his own email address as bcc’s.
“What did you do to make the email look like it came from her email address?” I asked.
“There are a lot of free email spoofing websites that you can use to do that. What you do is fill out a form, include the email address it’s supposed to be coming from, your actual email address so they can send you a blind copy, the text of the email, and a link to the attachment if there is one. Just click a button, and it’s sent. In this case, it’s sent from Mrs. Marshall’s email address. It’s easy to find these sites. Just Google ‘free tool to spoof the sender's address in an email’ and see how many hits you get.”
“Amazing,” I said. “I can see how you could send a lot of spam messages using these free sites.”
“Not really. They can handle single email messages to one recipient only. You have to pay to send large numbers of email messages in one group, and you have to use a sending email address that’s yours. These companies have to be careful so they don’t get in trouble.”
“Are you ready to go to my house and start on our homework?” I asked.
“Sure. Then we can tell your brothers that we turned Lane in to the sheriff when we get there.”
“Let me make sure it’s okay with my mom. I’ll ask her if you can stay for dinner.”
I called home.
“Jason is going to come over and we’ll do our homework together. Is it okay if he has dinner with us?”
“Of course. I’m roasting two chickens so there’ll be plenty. Go ahead and invite Jason for dinner. He’s a very nice boy. I’m glad he’s your friend. Make sure it’s okay with his mother.”
“Will do, and thanks, Mom. See you in a few minutes.” I ended the call.
I looked at Jason and grinned. “My mom likes you. She said that you’re a very nice boy.” That made him blush. And yes, I could tell that he was blushing.
“Okay. Now let’s get my mom’s okay,” he said.
We arrived at Jason’s house. His mom was in the kitchen.
“Mom, Steve asked if I can go to his house and we’ll do our homework. His mom invited me to have dinner with them. Is that okay?”
“Steve, is it okay with your mother?”
“Sure, I just talked to her. You can give her a call. We’re having roast chicken for dinner.”
“I’ll do just that. I want to make sure Jason won’t be imposing on your family dinner.”
“Okay, Mom,” Jason said. “We’ll watch some TV while you talk to Mrs. Corcoran.”
He turned to me and shrugged his shoulders. “You know how this is probably going to turn into a very long conversation. Let’s see what’s on. Maybe a CSI rerun. Will that be okay?”
“Works for me,” I replied.
We sat on the couch that faced a TV that must have had a 65 inch screen. I got up and looked it over, then returned to sit next to him.
Jason poked me with his elbow. “My dad insisted on this size TV. He actually wanted an 80 inch but it cost over double this one. He played football in high school and college. He said the reason he wants a screen this big is because when he’s watching football games he wants to see the beads of sweat on the player’s faces.”
I burst out laughing, and Jason started laughing, too.
After I finished laughing I thought of something. “He should have a TV with a zoom-in button,” I said.
“This TV has that feature. If you press the zoom button on the remote it zooms in to the center. It’s a 2-to-1 zoom. You can actually see sweat, but only when a player is standing still.”
“Josh liked to use it to zoom in on girls’ tits and then he’d press the hold button so they’d stay on the screen. I told him that was gross.”
“Maybe if they were naked you wouldn’t think it was gross?”
“Eww… no! That would be worse.”
I sat looking at Jason as he searched for a channel showing CSI. Apparently it wasn’t on because he tuned to a Chicago P.D. episode instead. I continued to stare at him. He was really cute. I guess he felt my stare because he turned and looked at me.
“Why are you staring at me?” he asked.
“Because you’re cute.”
He stared back at me. Finally, he said something that surprised me. “You’re cute, too. I like looking at you.” And that delighted me!
“I guess we’re a mutual admiration society,” I said.
My right hand was on the cushion next to my leg. He reached over with his left hand and put it on top of mine.
“Is this okay?” he asked.
“No. It’s not just okay — it’s wonderful.” I turned my hand over and we clasped our fingers together.
Jason cleared his throat. “I think my mom is finished talking to yours on the phone.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“She’s standing there looking at us.”
I turned my head around real fast and saw Mrs. Lawrence standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the family room. “Oops! Uh….” And at that point I didn’t know what to say. Then I saw her smile.
“I’m glad you two are getting to know each other. It’s about time that Jason has found a boy that he really likes,” she said.
I heard Jason gasp, so I looked at him. If you ever needed a poster boy for the saying, ‘His eyes were opened as wide as they could go!’ it was Jason at that moment.
Mrs. Lawrence started laughing. “Jason, we’ve known that you like boys. Your father and I have been waiting for you to tell us.” She looked down where our hands were still clasped together. Jason tried to pull his hand away, but I held on tight and wouldn’t let him go. “We’re fine with you and Steve liking each other. And yes, I mean ‘that way’, since you two are gay.”
“Wh… when did you… find out?” Jason said, his voice stammering a bit.
“When you were twelve. Your brother told us that he was pretty sure. He said when the two of you went somewhere, like the mall or just walking downtown, you were watching the boys while he was watching the girls.”
Jason let out a sigh. “I imagined all the ways that you’d find out and what your reaction would be.” He shook his head and continued, “But never, ever, this way. So… so you’re okay with me… uh… you know, being gay? And me and Steve being boyfriends?”
“Yes, I am. And when we tell your father I accidentally discovered your secret he will be just as pleased. Now, come here so I can give you a hug!”
I let Jason’s hand go, and he jumped off the couch and ran to his mom and they hugged. After a few seconds, Mrs. Lawrence looked at me. “Come here, Steve. You need to be part of this hug, too.” And then I was part of the three-way hug.
After we pulled apart the reality of the situation slammed into me.
“You can’t tell my folks,” I said; I was almost in tears. After a pause, I continued, “I don’t know if they’ll be okay that I’m gay the way you are with Jason, or if they’ll hate me.”
“They’ll love you the same as Jason’s dad and I love him.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. We’ve never talked about gays. I don’t know what….” At this point I was shaking, and Jason stood back as Mrs. Lawrence grabbed me in another hug.
“Silly boy! Your mother and I have been talking about Jason and about you, and she and your father had guessed that you’re gay just like we’d guessed that Jason is gay. Your mother said that they’ve been waiting for you to say something. So when you go home you can tell them. They are prepared and are totally supportive. That’s what your mother told me.”
“But Jason’s coming with me so we can do our homework! I can’t tell them when he’s….”
She interrupted me. “Of course you can, and with Jason being there, too. Don’t forget, the two of you are more than just friends. And your mother knows that.”
“What about my dad? And my brothers?”
“Steve, don’t be a worrywart. Having Jason with you when you talk to your mom will provide support. Don’t forget what I said. Your mother and I have been talking about the two of you. She and your dad know that you’re gay. She knows Jason is gay. They knows that you two are becoming very close. I’d guess that your brothers have figured it out, too.”
“Would you come with me?” I asked. I don’t think she expected that question.
“I can. But I think I should phone your mother first and make sure….”
“Hey!” Jason interrupted. “Here’s an idea. Mom, you call Steve’s mom and tell her Steve is stressed out about talking to her about the gay thing, and suggest that she talk to him on the phone.” He grabbed my shoulder. “That way you’ll know that your mom is okay with everything, and that it’s okay for me to go to your house with you. Don’t forget, we still have homework to finish!”
Jason’s mom grinned and nodded. I agreed, too.
Turns out all of my worrying didn’t amount to anything. Mom was happy that Jason and I were very good friends, it was okay if we became boyfriends, there would be a talk about… well, about sex stuff. Jason told me that we probably knew more than our folks did. I wasn’t sure about that, and it turned out that our dads got together with us and they knew a lot more that we did.
I’d worried about Donny and Danny and how they’d react. Their response was just like in some of the stories I’d read online: “We knew all along and were frustrated because you stayed stuck in the closet!”
There was one thing Jason and I agreed about, and that was we were not (and here we mentally used red text and all caps and bold and italic and underline for the ‘not’ part) going to say anything to anyone at school. We especially didn’t want it to get to Lane.
But Lane turned into a problem that didn’t amount to anything and he just disappeared. We heard that his parents decided to send him to Sierra Christian High School. He still drove his truck — we had no idea how he kept his license — but now he never had anyone riding with him. And best of all, Sierra Christian High really, really doesn’t allow any bullying — on or off campus.
Jason and I decided to come out at school and we became boyfriends during the summer between our sophomore and junior years. We decided to leave what that might mean to each of our classmate’s imagination. Everyone thought it was fine. We thought that was cool!
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This story may contain occasional references to minors who are or may be gay. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG (in a more enlightened time it would be rated G). If reading this type of material is illegal where you live, or if you are too young to read this type of material based on the laws where you live, or if your parents don't want you to read this type of material, or if you find this type of material morally or otherwise objectionable, or if you don’t want to be here, close your browser now. The author neither condones nor advocates the violation of any laws. If you want to be here, but aren’t supposed to be here, be careful and don't get caught!