Jason announces to his family that he’s gay. His sisters and his father tell him that it doesn’t make any difference, they love him regardless of whether he’s gay or straight or whatever. But what about his mother? Can she come to accept that her son is gay?
Monday was like any other school day that fell on a Monday. Jason, Jen, and Thea left to walk to school. On the way they met Ron at his house and continued to where Thea left them for her middle school. When they arrived at the intersection Jason’s mind was still totally focused on how he could improve his poster. In fact, he was so focused that he hadn’t heard the conversation going on around him since they left Ron’s house. Finally, Ron poked him in the shoulder.
“Ron to Jason! Are you with us or are you off in some world of your own making?”
“I’m with you.” Jason looked around and saw that they were already at the corner at Mt. Pleasant Avenue.
“We’re at my turn,” Thea said. “Thanks for the scintillating conversation. Especially you, Jase.” She giggled.
“Huh?” Jason replied, not really ‘with them’ yet.
Thea poked Jason in the ribs. “See you guys later.”
“No need to poke me! I’ll see you here after school,” Jason told Thea.
“Wait a minute! I’m supposed to meet with Coach Larsen right after school. I’ll walk to Hillcrest High. Where should I meet you guys?”
“I’m not so sure you should walk all that way by yourself, Thea,” Jason responded. “I’ll come and meet you here and we’ll walk back together.”
“No need to worry, big brother. Darryl and his friend Larry are coming with me. I’ll be okay.”
“Hmm. I’m not so sure.”
“Jase,” Thea replied, “what’s your problem? I’ll be fine. I told Mom that I’d be walking from Lomita Middle School to Hillcrest High School after school today to meet you guys and see Coach Larsen, and she was fine with it. You don’t worry about me when I leave you to walk the three long blocks down Mt. Pleasant to LMS. I’ll be with two guys, all three of us have cells, and we’ll be good to go.”
“Come on Jase, Thea will be fine. She’s not a baby.” Jen told him.
“Alright, but if she’s abducted by little green men it’s not my fault!” Jason grinned to show that he was kidding. More or less.
Jen told Thea, “We’ll meet you at the front of the school. Just cross the bridge and go straight. Okay?”
“Yup. I’ll see you there around quarter to four. Bye.”
Thea left the group and headed to her school and the others continued down Main Street to Hillcrest High.
Ron turned to Jason. “So what’s your excuse for a total lack of concentration this morning, Jase?”
“What do you mean? I’m concentrating.”
“Yeah, but not on us. You seem to be off in La La Land. Didn’t you get enough sleep? Or maybe you were doing something that kept you awake?”
Jason turned to Ron and one look of his expression he knew exactly what Ron was referring to, and his up and down hand motion eliminated any bit of doubt.
Jen had figured it out as well. “If you guys are going to talk dirty I’m outta here.”
“Talk dirty?” Ron exclaimed. “Who was talking dirty? Not moi.”
“Yes, you, Ronald Cantham. Maybe the words you said weren’t dirty, but that hand motion certainly was. And ‘not moi’ isn’t correct French. It’s ‘pas moi’. If you’re going to pretend that you speak French at least take a year of it first!”
Ron turned to Jason. “Ooo! Who put a burr under her saddle?” He grinned.
“Don’t drag me into this argument. I just happen to agree with Jen. I’ll quote your mother here: ‘Clean up your act!’”
Ron pouted. “Nobody can take a joke anymore.”
“Jase,” Jen said, “Ron’s question, until he ventured into smut, is a good one that I think you should answer. You’re not yourself this morning.”
“I’m myself. I’m just concentrating on how to lay out the poster I have to do for my Photography project. I thought I’d be done yesterday, but the way it’s going I’m not even sure I’ll have it by Friday.”
“What’s the problem?” Ron asked.
“I just can’t seem to get a good image in my mind about how to get what I want the poster to look like. I’ve come up with a dozen ideas of the layout and once I tried them, turns out they all sucked.”
Ron was tempted to tell Jason that now he was talking dirty, but decided it wouldn’t be judicious. “Jase, you want me to come over after school and see what you’ve done? Maybe I can come up with a couple ideas. Sometimes when I’m too close to what I’m doing I get like writer’s block, though I don’t know what it would be called for what you’re doing. But it could be that’s the sort of thing that you’ve got.”
Jason thought for a few seconds. “If you don’t mind, that’s a good idea. You could stay for dinner, if you want. That would give us a lot more time to work on it. I’ll call my mom and make sure it’s okay.”
“Okay, I’ll check with my mom too, and let her know where I’ll be.” Ron glanced at Jen then moved close to Jason and whispered, “Maybe we could have a sleepover?”
Jason smiled and nodded. That idea made him stop thinking about his project and to start thinking about being in bed with Ron.
By then they were in front of Hillcrest High. Jen waved a goodbye, and Jason and Ron headed for their Homeroom. The rest of the school day prior to lunch was like most school days, especially Mondays, for them. Interesting, enlightening, boring, irritating, frustrating, sleep-inducing; you name it, they experienced it.
Jason met Marcus as they walked down the hall to their classes following Homeroom. Both were on the second floor in building 400.
“Hi, Jase. You have your story for Creative Writing?”
“Yeah. I have it ready to turn in this morning. It’s not great but I think is pretty good. You have your next column ready to turn in to your Journalism class?”
“Uh huh. It’s okay. I kinda got writer’s block about half way through. I didn’t finish until after midnight. I don’t think I got enough sleep last night.”
“Don’t you mean ‘this morning’ since you didn’t go to bed until this morning?”
“Yeah, you’re right. Trouble is, thinking about that is making me even more tired.” To emphasize his point, Marcus yawned. A long, long yawn.
That made Jason laugh. “You, my friend, are not going to make it to seventh period today. Maybe not even to lunch.”
“You skipped over PE third period. After that I’ll be dead. Tell my folks I love them when they come to collect my body.” Marcus grinned as he and Jason walked up the stairs to second floor.
“Maybe I’ll use that as the theme for the next short story I have to write,” Jason said. “I can title it ‘Death of a Student’ and dedicate it ‘To The Memory of Marcus Benson, Deceased’.”
Marcus laughed. “Sounds like a good idea. Hey, Jase, I almost forgot something. I got this from my dad yesterday.” Marcus handed Jason several sheets of paper that were stapled together. “These are the models of the new super lightweight Ultrabooks that BuyMart has with the list prices and employee family and friends prices. I only have one copy, so let Ron see it, okay? Oh, and please don’t spread these prices around. I can only get them for you and Ron.”
“Um... could my sister Jen get one too? There wouldn’t be anyone else besides the three of us.”
“I guess so. I told my dad two so I’ll have to ask him about a third. But I think it’ll be okay.”
“Let me know. I won’t say anything to her until I hear back. Anyway, I don’t know if my folks will even buy me one, much less put out the bucks for two.”
“Whatever, I’ll find out tonight and send you an email. Then you can tell your folks and your sister. Okay?”
“Okay. Thanks. If the answer’s no that’s okay too. I really appreciate you getting this deal for me and Ron.”
At that point Jason arrived at his Creative Writing classroom. “See you later, Marcus,” he said and waved as Marcus continued to his Journalism class.
As Jason walked in he stopped at Mr. Lyon’s desk and turned in his story. There were twenty-seven students in the Creative Writing class, and by the time the class was over only ten stories had been reviewed. This pleased Jason because it meant his story wouldn’t be reviewed until Tuesday or Wednesday.
Mr. Lyon taught the second period English class in the same room as the first period Creative Writing class, so Jason could sit in the same seat for both classes. Ron was also in the English class, and when he arrived he sat down next to Jason.
“Hey, dufus. How’re they hanging?”
“About the same as you except without the potty mouth.”
“Bitch, bitch, bitch. So how’d your story do?”
“It didn’t. We ran out of time, as usual, so I’ll go either tomorrow or Wednesday. Mr. Lyon is going to post the schedule on Blackboard tonight. I hope it’s tomorrow. If it’s Wednesday then I might go last and I hate to go last.”
“Why? What’s wrong with last?”
“Everybody’s tired of writing commentaries about our stories, so they get less and less useful toward the end.”
“Oh. You know, that’s like my Choral Ensemble class. When we’re singing solos, which we do three or four times a semester, people stop paying attention. I should mention this to Ms. Libera and see if maybe we can move the solos around so this problem goes away.”
“Same thing in Spanish. Each of us has to read our translation and by the time we get to the end everyone’s totally bored. I guess that’s pretty common.”
“What’s on our agenda in English 1 today? If Mr. Lyon said something on Friday, I don’t remember it.”
“I don’t think he said anything. He was talking about word origins on Friday, so I guess were going to get more of that today.”
“Boring.” Ron slouched in his seat. “Wake me when it’s over, okay?”
Both Jason and Ron agreed that today’s English class was very interesting. Mr. Lyon talked about the history of contractions. Jason found this discussion worth the fifty minutes devoted to this class. He made notes, including one to look this topic up on the internet.
With the exception of his Photography class the rest of the day was same-as same-as; in other words, just like any typical day for someone in the second semester of ninth grade at Hillcrest High School. In Photography Mr. Hunter called each of the students to his desk and talked to them to find out what photographs they had taken and how they were going to use them for the poster project. He also collected the topic descriptions, something that Jason had forgotten was due. He wrote something by hand that he felt would be adequate and had it finished, including a copy for himself, by the time Mr. Hunter called him to talk to him about his project.
“Mr. Hunter, I’m sort of stuck trying to find a way to incorporate my head shots into a poster. Do you have any tips for me?
“Jason, why don’t you put a hundred or so of your images on the screen, you can do that with the Organizer part of Photoshop Elements. Then step back and look at them and see how they might go together.”
Jason wasn’t quite sure what Mr. Hunter meant, or what good that would do, but he smiled and said “Okay, thanks,” anyway. Trouble is, he used Photoshop, not Photoshop Elements, and it didn’t have an organizer. It did have Bridge, but he hadn’t used it very much. He’d have to experiment with it tonight.
Jason’s Spanish 3 class seemed to drag and drag, again because they were reviewing translations. At the end of the class he was happy to learn that they were through with paragraph translations. The next assignment would be to write an original short story in Spanish. Ms. Grimbauer told them she would give them the instructions for this new assignment on Tuesday.
At the end of his Spanish class Jason headed to the front of campus. He met up with Jen along the way, and when they got to the front of the Administration building Ron was waiting for them. Then the three stood waiting for Thea to arrive.
“Why don’t we go sit down over there?” Ron pointed to the long concrete bench in front of the school’s Performing Arts Center.
“She won’t see us if we’re not here. There are trees that will block her view over there,” Jason replied.
“Look, Jase, she’ll see us because the bench is visible between the tree trunks and, more important, we’ll see her as she crosses the bridge onto the campus.” Hillcrest was separated from Main Street by a short bridge that crossed the creek and provided the main access for walking, biking, and driving onto the campus.
“I agree with Ron,” Jen added. “I’m tired. I had Biology seventh period and we were doing an experiment and I’ve been standing the entire time in that class. I don’t care if anyone else does, but I am going to walk over there and sit down.” With that Jen started walking over to the bench. Ron followed her, then paused and turned.
“Come on, Jase.”
Jason grumbled, but he was tired too. So he reluctantly joined Ron and they joined Jen on the bench. From there it was as easy to see where Thea would cross the bridge as where they had standing in front of the Administration building. Jason looked at his watch.
“Jeez, it’s only three thirty. I should be heading home to work on my project.”
“What’s with you, Jase?” Ron asked. “You’re as fidgety as an old lady who’s gotta sneeze but can’t find her hanky.”
Jason was laughing at what Ron had said, but Jen looked at Ron in disbelief. “Where did you pick up that saying?”
“My grandpa. He has all of these weird old sayings that he comes up with. Some of them I remember because they’re so bizarre.”
Jen laughed. “That one’s right at the top of the bizarre meter. However, it does exactly describe Jase because he is so fidgety today.”
“I’m not fidgety!” Jason shouted.
“Yes you are!” Jen and Ron yelled in unison.
That made all three of them burst out laughing.
Ron pointed to the bridge. “I think that’s Thea,” he said as he stood up. “Thea! Over here!” he shouted, and waved.
Thea, accompanied by Darryl and another boy who they didn’t recognize, waved and the three walked across the driveway to where Jason and the others were now standing.
“Hi, guys. You know Darryl. This is Larry Garrett. Larry, these dufuses are my brother Jason, otherwise known as Jase; my sister Jennifer, otherwise known as Jen, and Jason’s friend Ronald Cantham, otherwise known as Ron.”
“And you are Cynthia Phillips, otherwise known as Thea. So what’s all of this ‘otherwise known as’ stuff, Sis?”
“Darryl and Larry don’t have nicknames. Darryl is Darryl, and Larry is Larry, not Lawrence. His first name is really Larry. All of us, including me, we all have nicknames. We were talking about that on the way over here, that it was strange that they don’t have nicknames.
“Now, let’s go to Coach Larsen’s office so I can explain Thea’s Rules and see what he thinks. Jen, is Tom coming with us?”
“He said he’ll meet us at his dad’s office.”
“Okay, let’s go. Do you know where his office is?”
“I do, follow me,” Jason announced.
They walked to the boy’s gym and around to the other side where the offices and classrooms were located. They saw Tom standing in the walkway, and when he saw them he waved.
“Hi, guys. Come on, my dad’s been waiting for Thea. He has the freshman basketball team waiting for you. Thea, we’re going to play a short game using Thea’s Rules and he wants you to explain them to the team and the two coaches who are going to be the refs. Okay?”
Thea looked nervous, then shrugged her shoulders, grinned, and said, “Okay! I’m ready. It’ll be cool to see a game played under Thea’s Rules. Let’s go.”
Tom opened the door to the boy’s gym and led them in to the basketball court. Coach Larsen stood on the court with his back to the door and talking with the twelve basketball players in their practice uniforms, half with maroon jerseys and the other half with yellow jerseys. Jason and Ron recognized most of them from their classes. They were all freshmen and on average were much taller than most boys in the freshman class so they definitely stood out and were noticeable.
There were a lot of guys sitting in the bleachers across the court. Jason recognized Doug Lin and saw there were others who were on the JV and varsity basketball teams. To his surprise he saw Marcus sitting with them.
“Guys, let’s sit in the bleachers on this side until my dad wants Thea to talk to the team.” All of them, Thea included, sat down in the first row of the bleachers. After about a minute Coach Larsen saw Thea and waved for her to join him, and she stood. Tom stood as well and said, “I’ll go with Thea.” They walked onto the court. Jason was nervous. He didn’t want Thea to be laughed at, he wanted those guys on the freshman team, a few that he knew, to treat her and her Thea’s Rules idea with respect. Jason continued to play his role of the protective brother.
Thea stood next to Coach Larsen. He put his hand on her shoulder.
“Men, this is Thea Phillips. She has an idea for speeding up basketball. My son Tom, here, thinks it’s an interesting idea. A member of our varsity team, Doug Lin, has been talking it up with his teammates who are also interested. Coach Cunningham and Coach Summerville will be the referees for this afternoon’s contest. We’re going to play one eight-minute period, following the normal rules and with Thea’s Rules taking effect where hers are different. We’ve talked about this earlier today, and you’ve all volunteered, the entire freshman team, to be Guinea Pigs for this contest. I’d like to personally thank you for that. Now, it’s Thea’s turn to tell you about Thea’s Rules.
“Hi. I’m Thea. How about you tell me and this really big crowd here this afternoon your names, starting with Gary Saxton. She grinned, and there were a lot of smiles as the members of the team introduced themselves.
When that was over Thea said, “Thanks. Now I’ll tell you about what’s being called Thea’s Rules.
“My idea is to eliminate most free throws and automatically give one point and the ball to the fouled team. The exception is when a player is fouled while shooting. If the shot is successful the fouled team gets an additional point and the ball. If the shot doesn’t go in, then the fouled team automatically gets one point and the shooter is allowed to attempt two free throws. These rules only apply to personal fouls, not to flagrant fouls or technical fouls which will have the same penalties as usual. Everything else is the same, like if a team is charged for more than six fouls in a half all granted points automatically double, and backcourt fouls, and so on.
“The idea is this will speed up game play and make it more exciting for the teams and for the fans. What’s cool is that the players don’t have to learn anything different about how to play, except don’t expect to have as many foul shots.
“Anyone have any questions?”
“Yeah, how much time do you expect this will save?” the tallest guy on the team asked. Jason recognized him from a couple of his classes. He thought for a couple seconds, and remembered his name, Calvin Cooper.
Coach Larsen answered that question. “In a typical high school basketball game the maximum clock time saving might be five to ten minutes. In my opinion the real improvement is for team play. Shooting fouls interrupts the rhythm of the game.”
None of the other players had any questions, so the game began.
The result was the red team (the ones wearing maroon jerseys) beat the gold team (the ones wearing yellow jerseys) 18 to 16. There were 3 fouls called that would have resulted in a foul shot, one on red and two on yellow, that instead resulted in the automatic point being granted. The players gathered around Coach Larsen and Thea after the contest, and the member of the JV and varsity teams that had watched them play joined in to make their comments. They talked about the changes, and all of them said it was an interesting change to the way the game was played, and the members of the freshman team said they would have liked to continue playing for the length of a full game.
“I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, men. We have a game coming up with Eastgate. I know Coach Barker. Let me see if we can schedule it as a non-conference exhibition game played using Thea’s Rules.”
With that agreement the freshman players headed for the locker room, the JV and varsity players headed out of the gym, and Coach Larsen walked over to congratulate Thea.
“I think you have something, Thea. Don’t be disappointed if things don’t change. Basketball is a highly disjoined sport, with many different leagues and organizations setting the rules, and that’s just high school. It takes a long time to get anything changed.”
“It’s okay. I’ve done my part. This was so great watching this exhibition game, even if it was only one quarter long. Thanks a lot for doing this, Coach Larsen.”
“Thank you, Thea. I’ll let you know if we can play the game with Eastgate, which is a non-conference game anyway, under Thea’s rules. That game is three weeks from this coming Friday. I’m going to the locker room now and see if the team needs anything. I’ll see you at home later, Tom.”
“See you, Dad.”
They left the campus and Tom took a left to walk to his home, and the others turned right. Darryl and Larry split off after a few blocks, and Ron continued with Jason, Jen, and Thea to the Phillips house where he was going to help Jason with his project.
It was five thirty when Jason and Ron walked into the kitchen where Jason’s mom was fixing dinner.
“Hi, Mom. What’s for dinner?” Jason asked.
“Spaghetti, carrots, garlic bread, and a salad. We have gingerbread for dessert. We’ll be eating at six thirty.”
“Sounds great, Mom. I love spaghetti.”
“I agree, Mrs. Phillips. Spaghetti is my favorite.”
“You guys want a snack?”
“Maybe something to drink, like a ginger ale. I don’t need anything to eat. I want to have lots of room for lots of spaghetti and garlic bread. How about you, Ron?”
“If you have some root beer, that would be great, and that’s enough for me.”
They took their drinks to Jason’s room and Jason turned on his computer.
“I’ll show you what I have so far. Mr. Hunter gave me a tip to try to decide how to work with my images. Trouble is, I'm not sure that it’s going to work using Photoshop and Bridge. Anyway, that should only take maybe ten minutes. Then I’ll show you the pix I took and how I’d like my poster to look. I just don’t know how to get there. Maybe you can come up with some ideas about how to make it all come together.”
“Sounds like a plan, Jase. Let’s get started.”
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