Sunday, March 06, 2011
am·phib·i·an:n. A class of animals that spend part of their time on land and part in the water; not quite fish and not quite reptiles. In adulthood they usually live on land, using their lungs to breath air. This double life is also at the root of their name, amphibian, derives from Greek. The Greek prefix amphi- means "both," or "double," and the Greek word bios means "life."
It was the end of the Summer of Love and he was still a virgin. It was also his senior year of High School in a small coastal town, San Antonio, California, 1967. The following year would prove to be a remarkable year for the world and for him, but at the end of that summer, he had no idea what lay ahead. His frustrations and fears were all that consumed him.
He had a girlfriend, Sandy. They fooled around, but had not done the deed. They were a close knit group of kids who hung together as a pack. Alone, they didn’t seem to matter much, but when they were together, they forged their identity as one of the more popular groups in High School. They were outside the Soshes and the Jocks, forming an alliance of Surfers, Hippies and Stoners. Some were all three. On the outside, it appeared that they were cool and carefree, but underneath the façade, they were all as neurotic and confused as every teenager. In some cases even more.
His plan was to graduate and go to the local City College until he figured out what he wanted to do with his life. He was getting a lot of pressure from his parents to get good grades so he could qualify for scholarships when he went on to the University. Art and English were the only classes he got excited about.
“What kind of a future is there in art?” His dad and mom were in the kitchen arguing with one another as usual.
“Maybe he’s got talent, maybe he could be another, I don’t know, Picasso?” His mother encouraged his art somewhat, but only because she thought he could sell his paintings and get rich.
It was the Saturday before the first day of school and they had all piled into their Volkswagens and stations wagons; strapping their boards to the racks on the top of their cars or hanging them out the back of the wagons, heading for the beach. The weather was great. Sunny and warm after the morning fog burned off. They got to the beach a little before noon.
“Hey Beadsly, did you ball Sandy last night?” Jim Masters yelled. He was the self appointed leader of the group and the resident expert in all things sexual. He also enjoyed rubbing anyone’s virginity in their face.
“Fuck you, Masters.”
“No, Beadsly, fuck Sandy, not me.”
“It’s none of your fucking business.”
“What do mean, Doug, fucking is my business.” The guys were all gathered around sitting on their boards waiting for the next big set to roll in. “I guess that means he didn’t. That also means you’re still a virgin, huh?”
“Leave him alone.” Randy Robinson was one of the few guys he was somewhat close to and would defend him.
“We know you are, Robinson, you big queer.” Masters said.
“Fuck off, Masters.” Randy paddled off to catch the next wave.
“Hey, Randy, will you give me a blow job later?” Mark Anderson was Jim’s closest ally in the group. Mark and Jim laughed, paddling like crazy to catch the same wave.
Doug sat there watching them take off as Jim cut Randy off and Randy fell from his board. Jim and Mark rode the wave in and carried their boards up to the beach, throwing them in the sand next to the girls, who sat on their towels sunning themselves.
Doug watched Randy paddle back out and ride another wave in before Randy joined the others on the beach. Not too far away from the group, some guy he didn’t recognize threw his board down and waxed it up. He saw the girls all watching the new guy as he picked up his board and paddled out towards him.
The new guy had dark curly hair and an amazing tan. His trunks were dark blue with a Hawaiian floral print of white hibiscus. A fairly large set rolled in and they both took off right next to each other. Beadsly was goofy foot, which meant he favored left breaking waves and as he cut to the left, he almost collided with the new guy in the blue trunks. Doug pulled out and paddled back out to catch the next wave. The curly headed guy paddled out next to him.
“Hey, sorry, man,” he said.
“My name’s Jeff.”
“Hey, I’m Doug.”
Doug caught the next wave in and walked his board up to the beach. He lay down in the sand next to Sandy.
“You see that asshole cut me off?”
“Yeah.” Sandy turned and watched Jeff take off on the next wave. “He’s cute.”
“I saw him here yesterday.” Jill was Jim’s girlfriend and probably the smartest in the group.
“He’s gorgeous,” Debby was Jill’s best friend and the only other virgin. That he knew of for sure. “Dibs.”
“He’s all right.” Laurie said. Laurie and Doug had dated for a while and hadn’t got much further than some heavy make-out sessions and him feeling up her small breasts.
Jeff rode a few more waves as they all watched him, talking about school starting on Monday and what classes they were all taking. Jeff rode a big wave in and came out of the surf with his board. He threw it on the beach, shaking his black curly locks like a dog. He saw them all watching him and smiled, showing them his perfect teeth. He walked over to them.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi, I’m Deb.”
“Like in debutante. I’m Jill.” Jill stood and shook his hand.
“Jeff, like in Jeffrey.” His trunks were dripping on the sand and down his tan and beautifully formed legs.
“You just move here?” Sandy asked.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Where from?” Debby asked.
“My cousins live in L.A. Hermosa Beach. What part are you from?” Debby asked.
“Sherman Oaks, in the Valley.”
“You going to Santa Rita?” Sandy asked.
“What grade?” Doug was getting curious about this guy. He had an openness and friendliness that was refreshing.
“We’re all seniors.”
“It must be hard to move to a new town in your senior year.” Jill sat back down on her towel. She was also the most compassionate one in the group.
Doug looked at Jim and watched him get a serious look of concentration on his face. He was lying on his stomach in the sand. Doug got ready for what was coming. Jim reached under him, grabbing a handful of wet sand where he had just peed. He got up on his knees and threw it at Randy. The sand flew everywhere.
“Pissball!” he yelled and ran off to the water with Randy chasing him, throwing wet sand at his back.
“You pig, Jim!” Jill stood up and brushed the sand off her.
They all ran down to the water as Jeff walked over to his board and sat down. They played around in the water, splashing one another and rinsing the sand off their bodies. Doug swam over to Sandy, grabbing her from behind. He held her around the waist. He looked towards the beach and saw Jeff watching them. Jeff smiled.
Later that day they dug a deep pit in the sand and built a fire as the sun set on the western horizon over the Pacific Ocean. Jim rolled a joint, lit it up and passed it around. Doug watched Jeff take a hit off the joint, hold the smoke in for a moment and exhale slowly. Something stirred deep inside him as he watched him pass it to Jill.
“Gimme a match!” Mark grabbed the matches from Jim, lifted his legs in the air and lit the match. He held it up to his ass and farted. A flame exploded and shot up his crotch.
“Far out!” Jim laughed.
“Right on!” Randy was laughing and rolled in the sand.
“Oh my god.” Debby said with disgust.
Jill was laughing. “That was so gross!”
Doug looked up from the laughter, watching a lone figure walk towards them from around the point. His paranoia hit him deep in his gut. As the figure got closer he could see it was Mike and he relaxed. Mike was a year older than all of them and had graduated the year before. He appeared depressed and sad.
Jim took a hit off the joint. Holding his breath, he handed it to Mike. “Hey man, have a toke and sit down,” Jim said in that funny voice people speak when they talk holding marijuana smoke in their lungs. Mike took the joint from him and sat down. He took a big hit and passed it around. The mood had changed drastically.
“Where’s Janice?” Jill asked.
“Home, I guess.”
“This is Jeff, Mike. He just moved here from L.A.” Jill was also the most polite person of the group.
“Hey.” Mike said as he shook Jeff’s hand.
“Hey,” Jeff replied.
The joint made its way around the circle and finished with Mike. He flicked the roach into the fire.
“I got my draft notice.” Mike said, breaking the silence.
“Shit!” Jim said.
They sat there in stunned silence.
“You could go to Canada.” Jill said.
“What the fuck would I do in Canada?”
“Where the hell is Vietnam, anyway?” Randy asked.
“Somewhere in Southeast Asia,” Debby replied.
Mike lit a cigarette.
“Does Janice know?” Jill asked.
“Yeah.” He stood up. “Hey, thanks for the tokes.”
“See ya later, Mike,” they all chimed. “Take it easy.”
Mike walked away, down the beach. Jill stood up and ran after him.
“Hey, Mike,” she yelled. He stopped and turned around as she threw her arms around him and kissed him. They had gone out a few times before he met Janice. “Take care of yourself, OK.”
“Yeah,” Mike said as he turned away and continued walking down the beach. Jill stood watching him.
“You need a lift, Jeff?” Sandy asked as everyone started collecting their clothes and towels.
“I got my van, thanks.”
As the sun set, they all walked up to the beach reluctantly. None of them wanted this day or the summer to end. Sunday would probably be spent with family and Monday would be the beginning of their last year of High School.
Jeff was putting his surfboard in the back of his VW van thinking that nothing would ever be the same.
The next morning Doug woke and felt something wet and sticky in his underwear. He lifted the covers up and looked down to see his underwear soaked from a wet dream.
“Shit!” He reached under the covers and took off the white briefs, throwing them in the closet. He rolled over to the edge of the bed, reaching under the mattress he brought out a muscle magazine he had stolen from the local newsstand. The magazine featured young men in posing straps and in some cases posing naked with their backsides to the camera. Doug rolled onto his stomach and started thumbing through the magazine. He heard the phone ringing. He was soon hard, grinding his cock into the mattress. A knock at the door startled him. He quickly closed the magazine, shoving it back in its hiding place between the mattress and the box spring.
“Hey Doug! The phones for you!” It was his younger sister, Kelly.
“Just a minute!” Doug yelled back. He jumped out of bed, walking naked across the room, his erection leading the way to his closet. He grabbed his robe and put it on, standing at the door watching his erection subside.
“What’re you doing in there? Kelly asked.
“Get away from the door!”
“Beatin’ off? Maaaam, Doug’s jackin’ off again!” Doug threw open the door and reached for her.
“You little bitch, I’ll kill you!” Kelly ran down the hall. She was fourteen and wore braces and a headgear. She was supposed to wear the headgear to school, but she always took it off at the bus stop.
“Maaaam, Doug called me a bitch!”
“Godamnit! I’m trying to sleep. You kids shut up!” Doug’s mom was in her room with the door closed. She had been out late the night before and was nursing a serious hangover. His dad had gone to play golf. Kelly ran to the bathroom at the end of the hall, stuck her tongue out and locked the door.
“I will get you, Kelly and you will be sorry.” He turned and ran to the phone in the kitchen.
“Hey, Doug. It’s Jeff from yesterday.”
“I was wondering if you weren’t doing anything today you might want to go for a hike.”
“OK, yeah. I know a great creek.”
“Cool, I’ll pick you up.”
Doug gave him directions to his house, making plans for Jeff to pick him up in an hour. Doug hung up the phone and smiled.
He ran to the bathroom. Kelly was already in her room with the door closed. He turned the radio on in the bathroom and got into the shower. Sly and the Family Stone were singing, ‘Everyday People.’ Doug sang along as he showered, using the back scrubber as a microphone.
Jeff’s house was only about a couple of blocks from Doug’s in an upper middle class neighborhood with older and larger homes. The house was a large, two story Spanish stucco home with a tiled roof. The residents all had gardeners, but one of Jeff’s chores when they moved into the house two months ago, was to clean the pool. After he hung up the phone with Doug, he grabbed his transistor radio and walked out the back door into the back yard. He turned the radio on, singing along with Sly and the Family Stone as he swept the pool. He danced around holding the pole of the pool cleaner as a partner and a microphone. When he finished sweeping the debris to the filter on the bottom, he jumped in and swam several laps. He emerged from the pool and dried off with a large beach towel.
“Morning, sweetheart.” Jeff’s mom was in her late thirties and a strikingly beautiful woman with short dark hair. She kissed him as he walked into the kitchen shirtless with the towel around his waist. She was wearing a tennis outfit.
“Tennis?” he asked.
“How’d you guess?”
“The smartest.” Jeff poured himself a bowl of cereal and sat down at the table. His mom poured herself a cup of coffee from the percolator. “Got any plans for today?”
“No. With a friend.”
“Jeff, that’s wonderful, darling.”
“Yeah, we met at the beach yesterday.”
“What’s his name?”
“Doug what?” she asked.
“Beardsly or Beadsly, I think.” His mom drank her coffee in silence. “What?”
“Doesn’t sound Jewish.”
“Mom, this isn’t L.A.”
“I know.” Jeff shoveled his cereal into his mouth. “Not so fast, honey.”
“Are you and dad still joining the club?” he asked with his mouth full.
“Pretty much anti everything. They only just changed the rules to avoid problems with the new civil rights laws, but the roots are definitely still there.”
“Well, with a name like Rosen.” Jeff said in his best Yiddish accent. Mom gathered her purse and her racket after she washed her coffee cup and put it in the dishwasher.
“Don’t forget the pool, sweetheart.”
“You are the perfect son.” Mom came over and kissed him on his forehead.
“Yeah. Perfect in every way.”
“Will you be home for dinner?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Well, I’ll make you up a plate. Have fun and be careful.” Mom walked out the back door. Jeff sat finishing his cereal as his sister, Lisa walked into the kitchen.
Lisa was in her sophomore year at Cal Berkeley and had turned into a stunning Jewish American Hippie Princess. Her thick black hair was uncombed and she wore a tie dyed tank top with an Indian print sarong around her waist.
“Is there coffee?” she asked.
“Yeah, Mom made some.” She poured herself a cup and added a couple of teaspoons of sugar. She sat at the kitchen table and blew on her coffee.
“When you going back to Berkeley?” Jeff asked.
“Tomorrow.” Jeff finished up his cereal and put his bowl in the dishwasher.
“What are you doing today?” She asked.
“You gonna take that shit I gave you?”
“I thought I might.” Jeff started throwing some fruit into a canvas bag.
“Be careful, it’s pretty strong.”
“Don’t worry,” he said as he walked out the kitchen door into the dining room. “Thanks. Love ya, Sis.”
“Love you too, little brother.”
Jeff pulled up to the modest tract house where Doug lived. The house was only a couple of years old and the landscaping had just started to take hold. All the houses in the neighborhood were basically similar with just a few differences. Jeff honked the horn of the VW bus and a few seconds later Doug came running out the door and across the lawn. He jumped into the passenger seat. He was wearing a tee shirt and green army fatigues that he had cut off and made into shorts.
“Hey, I got some mescaline from my sister. You ever done it?”
“What’s it like?
“Well, it’s different each time. But you trip, man. It’s more natural than acid.”
“I split it into two capsules. I already took mine. Open your mouth.”
Doug opened his mouth and leaned over to Jeff who popped a tan capsule into his mouth.
Doug gave directions to Jeff as the van took them up into the mountains. They turned off onto a dirt road and parked under oak and sycamore trees. They sat in the van waiting for the drug to take effect.
“I want to go to Israel next summer and work on kibbutz.” Jeff said.
“A Jewish commune. Everyone works and shares everything.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I haven’t decided.”
Jeff felt a rush of euphoria as the mescaline coursed through his bloodstream. “Come to beautiful Israel.” Jeff jumped out of the van and ran to a tree, throwing his arms around it. He kissed the bark. “This tree is me and I am the tree. We’re fucking made of the same thing,” he yelled.
Doug climbed out of the van laughing. They ran up the path, following the creek, jumping from rock to rock, until they reached a deep pool with a small waterfall. Jeff threw off his clothes and made his way into the water. Doug took off his clothes, climbing a rock at the edge of the pool and dove in. They swam around diving under water and pushing themselves off the bottom, breaking through the surface into the hot summer air. They swam over to the falls. Standing under the water fall, they let it pound down onto their back, shoulders and head. The water massaged them as the roar of the water filled their ears. They swam out to the center of the pool. It felt like swimming through velvet to them. Their senses attuned to every sensation.
They climbed out of the water and found a flat boulder to lie in the sun. Lying on their backs they watched the sun filter through the leaves of the trees. The hot sun beat down on them, drying their bodies. Their tanned bodies slowly turning a deeper shade of bronze.
“Fucking amazing.” Jeff said.
“Yeah,” Doug turned his head to look at Jeff who was looking at him. Their eyes met. As they stared at each other, Jeff smiled.
A terror burst inside Doug as he turned away. He stood and dove back into the pool. Jeff sat up watching him for a moment and then followed him into the water. Jeff swam up to Doug, dunking his head in the water. They laughed and wrestled with one another. Jeff swam up behind Doug and held him around the chest, pressing his body into his backside and rested his head on the back of his neck. They stood still, hugging for moment as Doug realized that Jeff was hard. He broke away, swimming back to the shore.
“What’s the matter?” Jeff asked.
“You’re freakin’ me out.”
“What the fuck, I just want to play.”
“Play with yourself.” Doug stood on the rock, pulling on his shorts as Jeff watched him dress. Jeff lay back in the water, floating on his back staring at the leaves of the trees above them. Doug watched him for a moment and then turned to hike up the creek.
He found a shallow pool. Bending down he stared at the bed of the creek through the clear water. Water beetles and small fish darted around through the water. The colors and the light were intensified and more beautiful than he had ever seen it. Water skimmers danced across the surface of the water.
Jeff climbed out of the water and sat on the rock, pulling up his knees to his chest and resting his arms and head on his knees. He started to cry silently. Tears ran down his face. He reached up and wiped them away. He tasted the saltiness of his tears on his fingers. He stood up, pulled on his shorts and lay back on the rock, staring into the sun. He closed his eyes, watching the patterns on the back of his eyelids; bright reds, yellows, oranges and magenta.
A shadow crossed his face. Opening his eyes, he saw Doug standing over him.
“Hey,” Doug said.
“Sorry, I tripped you out, man,” Jeff said.
“I over reacted,” Doug replied as he held out his hand and helped Jeff to stand. They put their shoes and socks back on, heading back down the creek to the van in silence.
As they neared the van, Jeff turned to Doug. “I didn’t mean anything, Doug.”
“Hey, it’s no big deal.” Doug walked past him and down the path.
Doug stopped and turned around. “Hey, I said it’s OK.”
They drove around for hours talking, laughing and stopping whenever the mood hit them. They ended up at the beach. After a long walk, they sat in silence as they watched the sun set.
“What happened to Mia Farrow?”
“She’s been off the show for almost a year, Mom. Where have you been?” Doug and his mom were sitting on the couch watching a summer rerun of ‘Peyton Place.’
“Well that girl doesn’t look anything like her. She married Frank Sinatra last year, you know,” Doug’s mom said as she sipped her bourbon and soda.
“Cut her hair too. I read it cost five thousand dollars.”
“Hmm.” Doug was eating a bowl of ice cream and coming down from the mescaline. It was the best ice cream he had ever eaten.
“She’s just a child. What is she twenty, twenty-one? He’s got to be over fifty.” Doug was not in the mood for this conversation. “I read that she’s going to India with..what’s his name? That Guru. You know, the one with the Beatles. Maha something.”
“Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi.”
“Yeah, that one.” They sat watching the show while Doug scrapped the bottom of the bowl, relishing each bite of the strawberry ice cream.
“Her Mom’s Maureen O’Sullivan.”
“Mia. She was Jane in the Tarzan movies. The ones with Johnny Weismuller.”
“Oh,” Doug said as he set the bowl on the carpet in front of the couch. She certainly knew a lot about Mia Farrow.
They watched the show for a few more minutes and then Doug’s mom asked, “Where’d you go today?”
“I’m trying to watch this.”
“Sorry,” Doug’s mom said and sipped her drink. “Who’d you go hiking with?”
“A friend!” Doug was really getting annoyed.
“I’m just asking a simple question.”
“I went hiking with a friend!”
“What’s his name?”
“Rosen, Jeff Rosen. Now will you leave me alone, please?”
Doug’s mom was petite with bleached blond hair. She had her hair done once a week and never washed it in between visits to the beauty parlor. She wore it in a bubble. She was barefoot, curled up on the coach sipping her drink, watching her son.
Something about him was different tonight, but she couldn’t quite figure out what it was. He was handsome. She had always been proud of his looks. His hair bleached by the sun and his skin tanned to a golden brown. He looked older than his seventeen years.
“Rosen,” she repeated. Doug tried to ignore her. “Jewish.”
He turned to her. “So?”
“There’s a Rosen who’s been playing tennis with Gloria Shapiro at the club. Gloria was the first Jew admitted and now she’s trying to get all her friends in.”
“I don’t know, I was just wondering if that might be your friend’s mom. Do you know what his dad does?” Doug had turned back to the television.
“I’m trying to watch TV.”
“What’s the big secret?”
They sat watching the show and his mom reached across the back of the couch and started playing with the hair on the back of Doug’s neck.
“Do you mind?” He pulled away.
“Your hair’s getting a little long.”
“Mother, please!” He pushed her hand away.
“Are you going to get it cut?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I’ll pay for it.”
“Don’t talk to me in that tone of voice!”
“I’m sitting here trying to watch television and you come in here..” Doug jumped up from the couch.
“This is my house, young man! And if I want to come in here and ..”
“Fine! The TV’s all yours! The living room’s all yours! I’m out of here!”
He stormed out the front door and slammed it shut. Doug’s mom got off the couch and walked to the front door looking through the glass panes. She yelled through the window in the door, “You show me some respect, you little bastard!”
Doug ran to his car and jumped in. He started the engine, looking over at the front door, he saw his mother yelling something at him. “Bitch,” he said.
She was crazy. He had dealt with her emotional mood swings all his life. Living with her was exhausting. He never understood how his father managed to stay married to her. The radio came on and he drove off.
Doug’s mom was crying softly as she watched her son drive away. They had been so close when he was growing up and now he was drifting away. Some days she hardly recognized him. All his life she depended on him for support and now he was like a complete stranger living in her house. Why did they have to grow up into teenagers? It was so much easier when they were little. Everything had been easier. She sat down on the couch and finished her drink, the ice clinking in the glass. Looking down she saw the ice cream bowl Doug had left behind. Still crying, she reached down, picked it up and walked it into the kitchen. She rinsed the bowl, placed it in the dishwasher and fixed herself another drink.
A few blocks away, Jeff was sitting on the floor of his bedroom in front of an altar he had made on a short table. He had covered the table with a piece of shiny orange material. Incense was burning next to an arrangement of flowers, leaves, shells and rocks he had gathered during the day with Doug. He sat on a pillow, trying to meditate but his mind kept drifting to his time with Doug. He remembered hiking up the creek with Doug leading the way. He watched Doug take off his shirt, tucking it into the waist of his shorts. The sweat on Doug’s back created a beautiful sheen as the sunlight reflected across his tan shoulders and muscular back. Jeff took off his shirt as they hiked up the creek. He watched Doug undress and saw that he was circumcised just like him. He remembered his tan lines and the whiteness of his upper thighs and butt. He thought about them lying on their backs in the sun and how his cock had begun to thicken. He remembered looking into Doug’s eyes and seeing himself as Doug looked back at him. This time instead of Doug getting up and jumping into the water, they kissed.
The halls were crammed with students at their lockers before the first period of the day. Books, lunches, purses and binders were being stuffed into the small spaces. As the bell rang announcing the five minute warning, lockers slammed shut, the halls filled with anxiety and excitement as students ran to their classes. Doug was running late and slammed his locker, racing to English. He entered the room and saw Laurie, Jill and Jeff seated at their desks. He took a seat across from Jeff.
“Hey, how’re you?” Jeff asked.
Doug nodded and watched Jim and Mark stroll into the class. As Jim walked by, he nodded to Doug and glanced over at Jeff without saying a word. He sat behind Jill and started playing with her hair. Mark took the seat across from Jim as Ted Wright, the English teacher, walked into the room with a leather briefcase. He set it on the desk and walked to the chalkboard, picking up a piece of chalk, he wrote, ‘Ted Wright’ on the board.
“I hear he’s a queer,” Jim whispered to Jill.
“Shut-up. You think everyone is,” she replied.
As he finished writing his name, Ted turned back to the class. “My name is Ted Wright, but because of a certain protocol that must be adhered to at this school to satisfy the establishment’s need for control, you are required to refer to me as Mr. Wright. In private, please feel free to call me Ted.”
“How private, Ted,” Jim lisped under his breath.
The students in the room began to relax in their seats.
“This is a class about English Literature. In this class we will discuss Literature and its relevancy to our lives today. In order to have an intelligent conversation about literature, you must read, and in order to insure that you will read, and I don’t mean the Cliff Notes, I must instill the fear of the occasional pop quiz. The rest of the class is discussion and essay.” Groans filled the room. “In the essay you will show me that you can take the information from the literature you have read and the discussions to form an opinion and put more than two sentences together in an intelligent and coherent manner. OK? Now I’d like to know what you read over your summer break. Starting here in the front, we’ll make our way around the room.
A pretty blond in the front row in the seat closest to the door was playing with the ends of her hair, biting the split ends. She looked up and saw that he was referring to her.
“Nothing,” she said.
“Nothing? No magazines, cereal boxes? Reader’s Digest?”
“Well, which ones?”
“Uh, ‘Life’, and ‘Look’ and ‘Modern Screen’. My mom’s magazines.” She went back to her split ends.
Ted was not feeling good about this. “OK, next.”
“’Wuthering Heights’, ‘Emma’, and ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
“Wow, that must have kept you busy.”
“I love to read. Especially nineteenth century English Literature.”
“You should do just fine in here, Miss..?”
“Wilks, Rosemary Wilks.” Rosemary smiled and it was obvious she was smitten with Mr. Wright. She was a plain brunette and had never felt more at home than in this class; except of course when she was curled up in her room lost in the world of Jane Austen.
“Thank you Miss Wilks. Next, Mr.?”
“Beadsly.” Doug was sitting behind Rosemary. “’Siddhartha and ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”
“All three books of the trilogy? What about ‘The Hobbit’?”
“I already read it.”
“Anything else by Hesse?”
“I’m reading ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’ now.”
“Excellent.” Ted was starting to feel that this year might be pretty good after all. “It sounds like we just might have some readers in here. It makes my job so much easier. Next.”
“Zip?” Maybe Ted had gotten his hopes up too soon.
Mark Peterson was sitting behind Doug and thought it was his responsibility to be the class clown in all his classes. “Yeah, nothing. You see I’m usually like this avariciounal reader, you see. Can’t get enough of it. I like to read a lot, but you see, I was like helping.. you see, I joined the Peace Corps this summer and I was so busy helping the people of this third world country become Americanized, that I just didn’t have much time to read this summer, Ted. Oh, I forgot, I did read ‘Playboy’.”
The class broke out in giggles and laughter.
“Just the articles, Mr..?”
“Peterson, yeah, just the articles. What else is there?”
There was more laughter and Mr. Wright smiled in spite of himself.
“I’m glad to see we also have some comedians in the class. It should make for some lively discussions. I look forward to more of you excuses, Mr. Peterson. Alright, moving across the aisle, Mr..?”
“Masters.” Jim just sat there.
“Well, Mr. Masters? What did you read this summer?”
“Yep.” Jim stared at Ted.
“Just the pictures and not the articles, I presume. Next.”
“‘Ramparts Magazine’, ‘Lord of the Flies’ for the second time. I just finished ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and oh yeah, ‘Valley of the Dolls’.”
“Very eclectic tastes, Miss..?”
“Walters, Jill Walters.”
Ted’s eyes moves from Jill to Jeff. He hadn’t noticed him before now. Ted was going to have a hard time not staring at this one.
“’Siddhartha’ and ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’.” Jeff turned and glanced at Doug who looked back at him and then to the back of Rosemary Wilks’ head. Jeff looked back to Mr. Wright. “Uh, ‘Brave New World’, ‘Walden’, uh, ‘Leaves of Grass’, and um, ‘Women in Love’, ‘Trout Fishing in America’, uh, ‘The Poem of Arthur Rimbaud’.” He pronounced it Rimbode. “And..” Jeff paused and his face turned a little red, “’The Charioteer’.”
Mr. Wright smiled knowingly. My God, he was beautiful. “A Mary Renault fan?”
“Yeah.” Jeff blushed even more.
“Have you read ‘The Persian Boy’?”
Mr. Wright nodded. “It’s pronounced, Ram-bo.”
“The poet, Arthur Rimbaud. It’s pronounced, Ram-bo.”
“A very impressive list, Mr..?”
“Rosen, Jeff Rosen.”
“Have a little time on your hands this summer, Mr. Rosen?”
“We just moved here this summer.”
“I see, well welcome to San Rita High, Mr. Rosen and for all you Hermann Hesse fans, may I recommend, ‘Steppenwolf’ and the ‘The Glass Bead Game’.” Doug looked up and saw Mr. Wright look from him to Jeff. Jeff glanced over at Doug who looked back at Rosemary’s brown hair. Laurie watched it all and smiled to herself.
“OK, who’s next?”
The water in the pool was cool and refreshing as Jeff dove into the deep end off the diving board. He swam a few laps, swimming freestyle and then switched to the backstroke. He finished up at the shallow end and walked up the steps to the lounge chair where he had placed a towel. He dried his hands off and stuck the towel in his ear to dry it off before his put the earpiece of his transistor radio in his ear. He adjusted the sound and lay down on the lounge. He closed his eyes and listened to the radio as the late afternoon sun dried him.
After about fifteen minutes a shadow crossed Jeff’s face. He opened his eyes and saw Doug standing over him.
“Hey, you found the place,” he said as he sat up.
“Yeah,” Doug replied as he sat on the lounge next to Jeff.
“I’ve already read ‘Steppenwolf’,” Jeff said.
“So, which one are you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Narcissus or Goldmund?”
“I don’t know, both I guess.”
“I think that’s what it’s supposed to be about. That we have these different sides to us. Duality. I know I do.”
Jeff lay back on the chaise and closed his eyes. Doug stared at his handsome face and made his way down his body.
“You doing anything this weekend?” he asked.
“Nope.” Jeff opened his eyes.
“My parents are going out and I’m having a party. You want to spend the night?”
“Sure.” They both turned to look at the pool. “You want to go for a swim?” Jeff asked.
“I don’t have any trunks.”
“You don’t need any.” Doug gave Jeff a disapproving look that turned to a grin. “Just kidding. I have an extra pair.” Jeff got up and motioned for Doug to follow him. They walked over to a changing cabana. Jeff turned on the light, walked over to a pair of trunks hanging on a hook and threw them to Doug. “Here, these should fit.”
Jeff walked out of the room as Doug looked around the room, walking up to a group of pictures hanging on the walls. He looked closely at the pictures of the Rosens posing at various vacations the family had taken together. There were pictures of Jeff and his sister at different ages. He found a picture of Jeff as a little boy and thought how absolutely adorable he was as a child. He changed quickly and walked out into the afternoon sun.
Doug did his best swan dive as Jeff sat on his lounge and watched. When he emerged from the water, Jeff applauded.
“I give it about a nine point five.”
Doug emerged from the water and threw water on Jeff as he lay down on the chaise. He closed his eyes, letting the sun warm him and dry him off. Jeff looked over at Doug and smiled. He lay back and closed his eyes as Doug opened his eyes and looked over at Jeff. He turned his head back, closed his eyes and smiled. It was good to have a friend; especially a friend with whom he seemed to have so much in common. The boys lay there soaking up the sun and each other’s company.
“Hesse wrote at the same time as Freud.” Jeff said as he lay on the lounge with his eyes closed. “They were both discovering the inner life of the mind. You know, the ego and the id. Growing up we’re supposed to learn how to integrate them. Some people end up with more ego than id and others with more id than ego.”
Both boys still had their eyes closed. “How do you know all this shit?” Doug asked.
“My mom’s a therapist and I’ve been in therapy since I was eleven.”
“What are you crazy or something?”
“No, really, why’re you in therapy?”
“I killed someone.”
They lay there in silence for a moment and Doug opened his eyes, turning to Jeff.
“You’re shittin’ me.” Jeff opened his eyes and looked back at Doug.
“Yeah,” he laughed. “Had you going for a minute though, didn’t I”
“Yeah, for about a second.” Jeff looked at Doug, smiled and then closed his eyes again. Doug continued looking at him.
“Do you ever get confused about..you know, who you are?” Jeff asked.
“Are you kidding? All the time.”
“I’m really sorry about the other day at the creek.”
“Hey, I said..”
“I know, it’s just that, well, when I was ten, my best friend and I were fooling around and shit. You know, typical kids stuff. You show me yours, playing with our dicks and well, his mom caught us and freaked out. She accused me of all kinds of shit and I got really depressed, so my mom sent me to a shrink.
“So the other day was..?”
“Yeah, it felt like a rerun.”
“Hey, you didn’t know.” Jeff paused for a moment, his eyes still closed. “I haven’t had a friend since.” Doug looked at him as Jeff opened his eyes and looked back at him.
“Sometimes I feel like, I don’t know.” Doug paused. “Like the other day, I felt like it opened up something inside of me. A part of me that freaked me out.”
The back door of the house opened and Jeff’s mom walked out. She was dressed in a blouse and skirt. Her shoes were low heeled.
“Hi honey,” she said as Jeff sat up.
“Hey, mom, this is Doug.”
Doug stood up.
“Oh, please, don’t get up. Nice to meet you, Doug.” She walked over and shook his hand. Doug sat back on the chaise.
“Hello, Mrs. Rosen.”
“Dinner will be in about two hours, Jeff. Your dad won’t be home. Would you like to stay for dinner, Doug?”
“Uh, I don’t know. I think I should, I mean..”
“Come on, call your mom. You can use the phone in the cabana,” Jeff said.
“OK.” Doug got up and walked to the cabana. Jeff and his mom watched him.
“He seems nice,” she said. “Polite. Is he the boy you went hiking with?”
“Yeah. We’ve read a lot of the same books, too.”
“That’s nice. I’ll call you when dinner’s ready. I’m fixing your favorite.”
“Yep,” Jeff’s mom paused looking at her son. She loved him so much. He was so beautiful. She wanted him to be happy. She wanted him to be free of the restraints and restrictions that had been imposed on her at his age. She had done everything in her power to help him come to grips with who she suspected he might be and now it was up to her to understand it.
“I’m glad you have a friend.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.” She walked back into the house as Doug walked out of the cabana.
“She said, OK,” Doug said.
“Wonderful,” Mom said.
“Dinner for three,” Jeff said as he stood up and walked to the edge of the pool. Mom entered the house.
“She said it was cool for you to spend the night.”
“Alright!” Jeff yelled as he cannonballed into the pool. Doug jumped in after him and dunked him. Jeff dove under the water and pulled down on Doug’s legs. They wrestled and laughed as Mom watched from the kitchen window, rinsing the potatoes in the sink.
“What’s this about?” Doug had pulled a paperback novel off a bookshelf in Jeff’s bedroom.
“What?” Jeff called out from the bathroom.
“That book you mentioned in class the other day. ‘The Charioteer.’”
Jeff walked back into the room naked, drying his hair. He had just showered after their swim. Doug tried not to notice and thumbed through the book.
“Uh, it takes place in England after World War Two. It’s about a guy who comes back from the war and he falls in love with two guys.” Doug looked up from the book and Jeff smiled at him.
“Really?” Doug asked.
“Yeah, it was written in the early fifties. It’s got another duality theme. The two horses in the myth by Plato represent darkness and light. One wants to lead you to heaven and spiritual love and the other is more unruly and wants to lead the charioteer to more earthly things. The metaphor is the charioteer has to get them to pull together.”
Jeff threw the towel on the floor and reached for his clothes. Doug put the book back on the shelf and sat on the bed watching Jeff dress.
“I’d like to borrow it someday.”
“Sure.” Jeff walked over and took the book off the shelf and threw it to Doug. “Take it now.”
Something was going on inside Doug and he was stuffing it as soon as hit reared its head. He watched Jeff finish dressing and then looked at the back cover of the book.
“You ever had potato latkes?” Jeff asked.
“What are they?”
“They’re like potato pancakes. You eat them with sour cream and applesauce. I love them.” Jeff threw himself on the bed next to Doug.
“Where’s your sister?” Doug asked.
“She’s in college at Beserkely.”
“What’s she majoring in?”
“Being a hippie with a minor in grass.”
“Most of the time, but she can be a real bitch when she wants to.”
They lay on the bed, both looking up at the ceiling feeling urges and emotions that frightened them both. Doug was the first to speak.
“So, does that mean you’ve never had a girlfriend either?”
“Yeah, not since I was eleven.”
“So, you’re a virgin?”
Doug paused and thought about his own situation, wondering if he should admit to his own virginity, but Jeff beat him to it.
“What about you?” Jeff asked.
“Yeah, me too.”
“Another thing we have in common.”
“What about kissing?”
“Just one girl I dated for a night. She went to an all girl school and invited me to a dance. It was awkward. She wore way too much perfume.”
There was a knock at the door. “Yeah?” Jeff called.
Mom stuck her head in the room as Doug sat up quickly. “Dinner’s just about ready, boys.”
“Thanks, Mom. We’ll be right down.” She closed the door.
“Your mom’s cool. Wait till you meet mine.” Doug stood up and walked to the door.
“She’s a little nuts.”
As they passed the living room on their way to the dining room, Doug looked in and saw a baby grand piano.
“You play?” he asked.
“Yeah, since I was eight.”
“Play something for me after dinner.”
Dinner was at a formal dining room with Jeff’s mom at one end of the table and the boys opposite one another.
“Have you had latkes before, Doug?” Jeff’s mom asked.
“No, but they look and smell delicious.” Jeff’s mom passed them and he put two on his plate followed by sour cream and applesauce.
As she passed the chicken and salad Jeff’s mom asked, “Tell us about your family, Doug.”
“Not much to tell. I have a younger sister. My dad’s in the restaurant supply business and is always either at work or going out to the restaurants he supplies and my mom hangs out with her friends from the country club.”
“Does your mom work?”
“No, just a housewife.”
“That can be a full time job.”
“With my mom, it’s definitely a part time job.”
Jeff’s mom smiled slightly. This new kid was interesting. She liked him a lot. She could see the attraction.
“Mom, Doug asked me to spend the night this Friday. Is it OK?” Jeff asked.
“My mom said it was OK.” Doug said.
“Will your parents be home?”
“Uh, they’re going out in the evening.”
“Well, if your parents don’t mind.”
After dinner, the boys helped her clean up the dishes. The three of them had an easy way together. They laughed and chatted about school. Jeff told his mom about the great English class he and Doug had together and all the books they had in common. Mom scooted them out of the kitchen and finished cleaning up while the boys went into the living room. Jeff sat down at the piano and started playing a classical piece. When he finished, Doug asked, “What’s that called?”
“Claire de Lune, by Debussy.”
Jeff’s mom walked into the living room. “That was lovely darling. Play something else.” She sat on the sofa while Doug stood next to Jeff. He played a Nocturne by Chopin as Jeff’s mom watched her son play the piano and Doug watch Jeff.
Doug was wading though his emotions. The music was getting to him, moving him deeply. Jeff’s facial expressions moved across his face as he played. Doug felt Jeff’s mom watching him. He moved his eyes to Jeff’s fingers on the keyboard.
He played beautifully. She could see the admiration and love in Doug’s eyes and felt a pang of remorse. What if this was his path? To be loved by another man. She had always wanted grandchildren and hopefully Lisa would provide them, but Jeff’s life seemed to be going in another direction all together. Although things were tense in Israel, following the Six Day War, she hoped he would find his way there this summer and perhaps this would all change; if not a nice Jewish girl than at least a Jewish boy. Or was this boy meant to be the one? The music made her feel sad. The song ended and she and Doug clapped.
Doug’s mom was seated at her vanity table in her bedroom. She was applying make-up, getting ready to go out with her husband on a Friday night. She looked forward to the weekends, being able to go out and have a good time. They always started out at the same restaurant and then sometimes made their way to another restaurant with a bar. Her husband was able to sign off on the bill because they were his accounts and they always owed him money.
“Hal!” she yelled, but there was no answer. She yelled again and still there was no reply. “Doug? Where’s your father?”
“In the garage.”
“Would you fix me drink, honey?”
“Bourbon and soda?”
“Thank you, baby.”
She was applying her false eyelashes when Doug walked in with the drink. He set it on the table in front of her. She picked it up and sipped.
She applied her lipstick as Doug watched. She loved putting on her make-up and letting him watch. They had done it since he was a little boy and it had become a ritual. They had not done it in a long time. Doug remembered all the times he had stood at her table and watched her put her lips on and then take a tissue and kiss it. She used to give it to him. One day she put lipstick and mascara on him.
“Look at my pretty little girl!” she exclaimed. “God you’re prettier than me.”
Doug watched her pick up the tissue from the box and kiss it.
“You want it?” she asked.
“No thanks, I got plenty.” Mom threw it in the waste basket. “How late are you guys going to be?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Why, you’re not planning anything are you?”
“What do you mean?”
“No parties, you hear?”
“We’re just going to hang out.”
Mom took a drink and got lipstick on the lip of the glass.
“Is your friend here yet?”
“What’s his name?”
“Oh, that’s right, the Rosen kid.”
The doorbell rang and Doug ran to the door.