Reorientation by Colin Kelly

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?


Chapter 18 The Day Before Spring Break      Story Index >>

“Jase, over here!”

Jason turned and saw Ron sitting on a bench at the side of the quad. He walked over and sat next to his boyfriend.

“You look very happy, Jase. I assume that you got your poster printed and it came out looking good.”

“No, not looking good. Looking fantastic! Mr. Hunter said that I’d done A-plus professional quality work on my project. He asked if he could have a copy for his wife because she works at the library.” Jason bounced his legs with excitement. “I have your copy to give you after school. I have you to thank for your great idea about how to lay out the images on the poster.”

Ron beamed. Unlike most teens his age he loved to get compliments. “Thanks, Jase. I’m glad that my idea helped.” They bumped shoulders.

Jason watched as Ron took a big bite his breakfast burrito.

“Is that burrito good?”

“Yeah, it is. It’s got scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, and spicy salsa. It’s actually excellent. I wish they’d have these at lunch. That’d be lots better than those burritos that are loaded with refried beans.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. They taste awful, just like most of the cafeteria food. That’s the main reason why I bring my lunch most of the time.”

“That and all of the farts the rest of the day from kids who eat bean burritos.”

Jason looked at Ron and started laughing. “That is so gross. So true, but so gross.”

“There oughta be a law, Jase, there oughta be a law!”

“What is it there should there be a law against, Ron?”

Ron and Jason looked up. Mike and Doug stood in front of them, grinning.

“Mike, I just told Jase that there should be a law keeping the cafeteria from selling burritos loaded with refried beans,” Ron replied. “Kids that eat them end up farting in class the rest of the day.”

Mike and Doug squinted their eyes like they’d just tasted something bitter, then started laughing which got Ron and Jason going again.

“That is gross! There should be a law,” Doug said. “And it is true. I have empirical evidence that proves your statement.” He graphically demonstrated his empirical methodology by tightly pitching his nose closed.

“It’s not so bad in my fifth period class,” Ron said, “but I have PE sixth period and if we’re stuck in the gym, with all the exercises we do, I’m sure the air pollution is at illegal levels.” He took a big bite of his breakfast burrito, chewed, and swallowed. “They oughta have these at lunch instead. Scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, and salsa. These are great.”

“That does sound good,” Jason remarked. “I’m going to go get one before there isn’t enough time.”

“I’ll head over there with you,” Mike said. “I’m hungry. How ‘bout you, Doug?”

“Nope, not for me. I had breakfast at home. I have to watch what I’m eating during basketball season. If Coach Larsen catches me eating one of those I’ll have to put up with a fifteen-minute lecture about proper eating practices for athletes.”

Jason and Mike headed to the cafeteria and Doug sat down next to Ron.

Doug looked around, and seeing no one close enough to overhear him, turned to Ron. “You guys decide if you’re going to come out?” he said in a low voice.

“We’re going to do the same as you guys,” Ron replied at the same volume level. “You get hassled by anyone this morning?”

“Yeah. Randy Andrews started to rant at us about God hating fags. We think he waited for us here in the quad. I told him that if he didn’t back off I’d report him to the administration. That shut him up.”

“Why would that stop him?”

“The school anti-bullying policy. You can’t go around saying things like that to other kids. Andrews got detention three times last year then got suspended the next time he tried it. His dad is a lawyer. He sued the school district saying the policy violates their religious freedom. The case was tossed out of court because everyone has to read the policy and both students and parents have to sign it otherwise you can’t enroll in school. Everyone has to do this every semester. The school had the agreement signed by both Randy and Mr. Andrews. The judge ruled that he had to pay court costs for wasting the court's time with a frivolous lawsuit. So I guess Randy Andrews is a lot more careful so he doesn’t get turned in and suspended again.”

“Damn, that’s a good way to shut him down and stop his un-religious rants. If he pulls that on me or Jase, we’ll say that we’ll turn him in to the administration. We’ll let our friends know too, like Jayden and Todd. Though what Todd does to Andrews is pretty funny. He acts like they’re having a conversation, but he’s the only one who says anything. Lemme see if I can remember… oh yeah, one that I remember went something like this. ‘Nice shirt, Randy, where did you say you got it? Yup, I know about Big and Tall.’ Andrews never says anything back to him. Todd thinks it pisses him off.”

“I’ll have to remember that. Still, scaring him by saying we’re going to report him is fun, too.”

“Why doesn’t he just say things that won’t get him in trouble?”

“Like what?”

“Oh, lemme see.” Ron sat and thought for a few seconds. “How about, ‘We’re having a Christian Students Club meeting tonight. You guys should really come.’ Things like that.”

“I don’t think he’s smart enough to think up things like that. All he knows to do is spout off stuff that he hears in his church. You know, my family is religious, but we believe that God is a God of love, not of hate.”

“Makes sense to me,” Ron replied. “Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Okay. It depends on what it is whether I answer it or not, though.”

“Are you guys out to your folks, and if so do they know that you’re boyfriends?”

“The answers to your questions are yes and yes. I told my folks when I started middle school, sixth grade. My little brother knows too, now that he’s in middle school and can understand. Mike told his folks when we met in the eighth grade and became boyfriends. How about you guys?”

“That’s cool about both you guy’s parents knowing, and your little brother. My folks have known about me and Jase since middle school. Jason finally told his folks and his sisters two weeks ago. His mom wasn’t thrilled, but his dad and his sisters are fine with it. His mom had a change of heart and now she’s okay. My folks know that we’re boyfriends, but Jase thinks that his folks don’t know about that yet. I think they do because they went to a PFLAG meeting with my folks and I’m sure they talked about us. I think he should tell his folks officially that we’re boyfriends.”

“Why don’t you just ask your folks about it if you think they talked with Jase’s folks?”

“My mom’s a child psychologist and she treats everything relating to Jase and his parents as confidential. In other words, she won’t tell me squat.”

Doug started laughing. “Having a child psychologist for a mother isn’t something I’d want. I feel for you, man!”

“Tell me about it!”

Jason and Mike walked up each carrying a half-eaten breakfast burrito.

“My god, these are so fantastic, Doug!” Mike enthused.

“You think everything that’s edible is fantastic. I don’t understand how you keep your weight under control.”

“I do it by avoiding sweets and fruit juice, and sodas unless they are diet.”

“You don't drink fruit juice?” Ron asked. “I can’t believe that. I couldn’t do without my orange juice every morning.”

“Did you know,” Mike asked Ron, “that there are eight teaspoons of sugar in a twelve-ounce glass of orange juice?”

“You’re kidding! No, I can see that you aren’t kidding. Sometimes I drink two big glasses of OJ in the morning. That means I’m drinking what, sixteen teaspoons of sugar? Oh my god! But I love orange juice. Is there low calorie OJ?” Mike shook his head. “No? Shit.”

“You can still drink your OJ, Ron, just keep it down to a six ounce glass. That’s four teaspoons of sugar, but you’re also getting vitamins and other nutrients that are good for you. Switch to a cereal that doesn’t have any added sugar and don’t put sugar on it, don’t eat sweet rolls, eat toast and use one teaspoon of jam, the natural kind of peanut butter is okay too, and you’ll have a healthier breakfast.”

“See what I have to put up with?” Doug said. “My boyfriend thinks he’s the official nutrition and diet police. He’s worse than my parents or Coach Larsen.”

Ron and Jason laughed at Doug’s description of Mike. The first bell interrupted their conversation and the four teens headed to their lockers to get the books they’d need for their first classes of the day, then they went to their Homerooms.

As Ron and Jason got into their regular seats in Homeroom, Ron poked Jason in his arm.

“Jase, I forgot to ask you, when do I get to see your poster?”

“After school today. I have them in a portfolio that’s too big to carry around all day and is too big to fit in my locker, so I left it in the Photography lab. I’ll get it right after my Spanish class. I’ll stop at your house on the way home from school and give you your poster, then I’ll have to take off so I can show my folks and Jen and Thea too.”

“I thought you were going to stop somewhere to leave one of the posters for that mall cop.”

“Oh shit, I forgot about that. Tell you what, if you come with me I can drop it off at his office, it’s um….” Before leaving for school Jason put the business card the guard had given him in his shirt pocket. He pulled it out and read the company name.

“It’s Allied Security Services. Then I’ll treat you to a burger at Habit. It’s in the same building as the rent-a-cop company.”

“Oh, that’s a deal! I love Habit’s burgers. I’ll have to phone my mom first and let her know. Then we can walk to my house and you can give me my poster and show it to my mom. Okay?”

“Sure, I’ll have to phone my mom too. Say, what happened when you had your meeting about the period zero Algebra tutoring?”

“It’s all good. I’ll go to school early for period zero on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I’ll have someone tutoring me. It’ll be one-on-one with a guy who’s a senior. We’ll decide if I need more or fewer days, and how long the he thinks we’ll need to meet each day, maybe a half hour will be enough so I can get an extra half hour of sleep. We might even figure out that I don’t need to do it all semester.”

“When do you start?”

“The Tuesday after we’re back from spring break.”

“Cool. You’re a smart guy, Ron. I think with a few hours of tutoring you’ll be able to handle Algebra I on your own.”

“That’s easy for the math geek to say. I hope you’re right.”

“You’ll see….”

The bell for the start of Homeroom interrupted Jason’s comment, and Ms. Tepper started taking roll. It seemed like a typical start to a typical Friday at school, but in reality Jason and Ron would find the day before spring vacation more relaxed than usual. So would the teachers.

By the time lunch came around on the schedule, probably ninety-nine percent of the students at Hillcrest High School were more than ready to start their spring break. But, sadly, that just wouldn’t happen. Besides lunch there were three additional periods, and every Hillcrest student had a class during each of those periods that they were required to attend. That resulted in what appeared to be a slowing down of every clock in the school. The classes dragged and dragged for the approximately one thousand four hundred students and the one hundred fourteen teachers and thirty-seven teacher aides at Hillcrest High School.

While Jason eagerly anticipated his sixth period Photography class, he still had his Weight Training class during fifth period. Instead of suiting up and doing their usual regimen of exercises, which Jason would have preferred, Coach Cunningham decided they should have a test. A written test. The questions were, in Jason’s opinion, ridiculous. They had to do with how to set the equipment they used in class, the proper sequence of exercises, how to warm up and cool down, and more yada-yada-yada like that. After a five-minute lecture about how to take the test, what sort of questions they’d have to answer, and how the test would be scored, Jason got started. He answered the fifty questions in less than fifteen minutes, including time to review his answers. Twice.

He walked up to Coach Cunningham’s desk and handed in his test paper, completely filled out.

“You’re finished? Already?”

“Yes, Coach.”

“Did you check your answers?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have a seat and I’ll grade your exam.”

Jason went back to where he’d been sitting on one of the weight benches. Since this class met in the weight room, there were no regular student desks and they’d had to sit on the floor or improvise. Jason had improvised, and because he’d arrived early he grabbed one of the weight benches as his improvisation. After a few minutes Coach Cunningham waved at him to come to his desk.

“You have a good memory, Mr. Phillips. All of your answers are correct.” Like most of the PE teachers, Coach Cunningham addressed his students by their last name.

“Thank you. Uh, could I go to the library now? I need to do some research for a World History report that’s due when we get back from spring break.” Now, half of Jason’s statement was true, he did have a World History report to turn in when they got back. The part about doing research wasn’t true; Jason had already researched, written, and completed his report. He figured that a half-truth would be enough reason to get him a hall pass so he could escape the weight room and get outside for a slow walk to the library, taking advantage of the nice weather.

“Sorry, Mr. Phillips, no can do. Have a seat and relax. Read one of the exercise manuals,” Coach said pointing to the bookcase next to his desk, “or do your homework, or take a nap, whatever, but you have to stay with the rest of the class until the end of the period.”

Jason returned to the weight bench and sat down. Because they didn’t have to suit up he didn’t have to store his backpack in his gym locker. He’d brought it with him to the weight room, and he had his Introduction to World History and Geography, California Edition and Third Year High School Spanish textbooks. He ignored both of those and pulled out his spiral notebook instead. He opened it to the page where he’d started writing what he’d say when he showed his poster and describe the process he’d used to take the images, including the part about the guard Charlie Phillips, and how he’d used Photoshop to place the headshots and overlay the picture of the ‘Shhh…’ sculpture from the library. He’d included a thank-you to Ron Cantham for helping him decide how to format the six hundred headshots on the page.

By the time the bell rang announcing the end of fifth period, Jason had his speech completed. He’d run through it under his breath a few times and it fit the five-minute time limit that Mr. Hunter had said each of them would have to talk about their poster. He closed his notebook and put it in his backpack. He stood up and grinned. ‘Man, I am so freakin’ happy!’ he said to himself.

As he left the gym he saw Leshawn Cross coming out of the locker room.

“Hey, Leshawn!” He rushed to join Leshawn and they bumped fists.

“How you doing, Jase?”

“Great, really great!”

“You look happy, man. You all ready to blow this joint and have a week off?”

“You know it, as soon as our Photography class and Spanish are over and done with. Where’s Kevin?”

“We don’t have any classes together after fourth period.”

“Oh. How’s he like it here?”

Leshawn laughed. “Number one, Kev loves the weather here. Number two, Kev’s enjoying being a freshman at Hillcrest. Number three, Kev doesn’t mind staying at our place even if he does have to share my room.”

“And how’s that working out?”

“Good. Neither of us snores loud enough to bother the other. Thing is, Kev’s feet are always cold so I’m making him wear socks to bed.”

“You sleep in the same bed?”

“Yeah. I’ve got a king so it’s a lot better for him to share than use a sleeping bag on the hardwood floor. And besides….” Leshawn didn’t continue but instead blushed big-time.

Jason broke out laughing. “Okay, Leshawn, I can see you blushing bright red all the way through your beautiful dark black skin, so what’s up?”

“I can’t tell you here. Later, maybe. Say, can you and Ron come to my house tomorrow afternoon? We’re going to hang around our pool and my dad’s gonna grill up burgers and chicken and we’ll have everything to go with.”

“I think so. I’ll check my schedule when we get to class, and I’ll talk to Ron on our way home. Will we learn about the ‘later, maybe’ you mentioned?”

“Damn, I thought you might forget.” Leshawn grinned and blushed again. “Yeah, while you’re over I’ll let you in on all the embarrassing details.” Leshawn nibbled on his bottom lip. Jason could see that even though he was nervous Leshawn wanted to talk about it, whatever it was.

“Okay, then I’m absolutely certain that we’ll make it over tomorrow. Ron and I have some big news to tell you guys too.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, we’ll tell you two tomorrow.”

They continued to the Photography lab, and Jason wondered why he offered to tell Leshawn and Kevin that he and Ron are boyfriends. ‘No problemo,’ he thought to himself, ‘Leshawn has been my friend from first grade so he should be one of the first to hear. I wonder what he’ll think. I wonder what Kevin will think. I wonder what Ron will think. I wonder why I’m thinking about all these I wonders.’ Jason giggled.

Leshawn heard Jason giggle and asked, “Okay, what’s funny, Jase?”

“I don’t know. I’ve just been like totally happy today, all day. Even Coach Cunningham giving us a test in Weight Training, and I mean a paper and pencil test, couldn’t break how happy I’m feeling today.”

“I bet it’s nine and a half days of spring break starting at three-ten p.m. today that’s helping you feel happy. You think?”

“I think you nailed it. Well, part of it.”

“And what’s the other part?” Leshawn asked.

“I finished my Photography project, printed the copies I needed, and turned it in to Mr. Hunter this morning. I’m number six to talk about my project today. I assume you got yours turned in?  I heard that you’re number one today. Are you?”

“Yup, I’m number one today.”

“How’d you manage to get stuck with that?”

“I needed to talk to Mr. Hunter about my project and I did that on Monday to get approval for the way I did it. He said it was good to go, so I handed it in.”

Jason wondered why Leshawn’s poster would require Mr. Hunter’s approval. “What’s your subject?”

“Can’t tell you. You’ll see in class. It’s going to be a surprise.”

“You know that my subject is Headlines. So can’t I have even one little hint? I mean, just one tiny hint? Pleeeze?” Jason whined.

“Jeez, Jase, you’ll know what it is in about ten minutes.”

“Awww….”

“Okay, okay, don’t whimper. The hint is the title. It’s Black Power.” Leshawn drew his fingers across his lips, closed his eyes, and shook his head ‘No!’ when Jason started to say something and quickly gave up.

“Open your eyes, Leshawn! You’re about to run into the classroom door. It’s closed.”

Leshawn laughed, and they walked into the Photography lab.

Jason’s sixth period Photography class didn’t seem to suffer from the general malaise infecting the rest of the school. This would be the first day when students would present their posters and give their presentations.

If everything went well, Mr. Hunter planned to have between ten and fifteen students give their five-minute presentations on Friday. The difference in count was to accommodate the typical teen inability to stick to a schedule by promptly starting and ending their presentations, and for students to be ready when called upon. He decided to start with students in the order that they turned in their projects. That meant Leshawn would be number one, Jason would be number six, and Marcus number seven. Jason had been concerned that he would be number one or two, which would have been difficult, maybe even nerve-wracking. He had smiled when he heard he would be number six. That meant he could watch others and get ideas about how to describe his project and poster. Also, not being later on the list meant that he would be able to get it over with this Friday instead of worrying about it over spring break.

When a student stepped up to give their presentation, Mr. Hunter put each of the posters in a clear plastic jacket and passed it around and plugged in their jump drive and used Photoshop to display the files that each student used to create their poster. He used the school digital projector and the large screen at the front of the classroom. That is what the students used to illustrate their presentation and show how they used Photoshop or whatever other similar software.

Leshawn gave the first presentation. He explained that his Black Power poster shows the history of Black football players at Hillcrest High, going back to when the school first opened in nineteen ninety through the current year. He took the pictures of the players who were on the teams from the past few years and were still at school. With Mr. Hunter’s approval he used images from the school newspaper’s gallery to show Black players from earlier years. He didn’t have photo editing software, and he decided on Paint Shop Pro because BuyMart had a special rebate offer and he ended up paying only the sales tax on the pre-rebate price, about ten dollars total. He said Paint Shop Pro supports layers, a feature he needed for his project. He adjusted transparency of the layers so they overlaid each other in a way that let ghostlike images of the players from prior years barely show through the players from more current years. Like everyone who would give their presentations, he got a big round of applause when he finished.

The next four students showed their posters. The first three of them were shots of downtown buildings. Jason took a deep breath after he’d seen them, glad that he changed his mind, thanks to his conversation with the security guard, and changed from a poster of downtown buildings. The fourth poster was elementary school kids playing games, and while the kids were cute Jason thought that the layout could have been less boring.

Mr. Hunter called Jason’s name. He talked about the number of images he took, the guard at the parking structure, Ron’s suggestions for positioning his images, and how he placed the image of the sculpture in the library on top of the headshots, how he used Photoshop and ended up with over six hundred layers in his file. There were a lot of questions from the other students when he finished, and Mr. Hunter allowed them to run on for a few minutes, so Jason’s presentation ran about twice as long as the others.

Marcus came next. He went to the Auto Museum in Blackhawk and took pictures of the famous cars, taking only the grills and the front of each car. He arranged them, and he spent a lot of time making sure that the colors were as vibrant as possible. He described the add-ons to Photoshop Express that he used to adjust the individual images for the maximum yet realistic color.

After five more students showed their posters and described how they’d put them together, the class came to an end. Jason decided to pick up his portfolio now instead of walking all the way back to this part of the campus from the building where he had his seventh period Spanish class. He checked that the three posters and the envelope for Charlie Phillips were still there, and of course they were. The portfolio had a handle, so it turned out to be fairly easy to carry.

His Spanish teacher cut the students a break. She read several funny stories, in Spanish of course, and it made the last class before spring break very enjoyable. Maybe not quite as enjoyable as it would have been if she’d let them leave early, but Jason knew that she couldn’t do that.

Finally, seventh period came to a close, and there seemed to be a sound like every single person on campus gave a huge sigh of relief simultaneously. He headed out to the front entrance of the campus to wait for Ron. After a few minutes he saw Ron walking in his direction, and they waved to each other.

Ron walked up and they bumped shoulders, then started the walk from the campus to the building where Jason would drop off the poster for the guard.

Ron pointed at Jason’s portfolio. “Hey, cool… whatever that’s called.”

“It’s a portfolio. It’s for carrying art projects, engineering and architectural drawings, anything too big for a backpack or book bag. Mr. Hunter gave it to me.”

“That’s a very cool thing for him to do.”

“Yeah. He’s just about my favorite teacher.”

“He taught your Web Design class last semester, right?”

“Yeah. We learned advanced web development last semester. This semester we’ve learned how to use Photoshop and other advanced image editing programs, and the rest of this semester we’ll learn about putting images into websites.”

“Cool. Sounds like you’ll be ready to go out and get a job after this school year, then I can retire.”

“Like, not!”

“We’ll see, Jase, we’ll see.”

“Hey Ron, I almost forgot. Leshawn invited the two of us to his house tomorrow afternoon to go swimming and have grilled burgers and chicken to eat. His cousin Kevin is staying with them. He’s a nice guy. Can you go?”

“Are there going to be any others there?”

“I don’t know. Leshawn didn’t really say one way or the other. It doesn't make any difference to me.”

“Me either. Say, would Leshawn’s cousin be Kevin Cross?”

“Yeah, that’s him. Makes sense, Leshawn’s last name is Cross.”

“Yeah, well, I guess. Anyway, Kevin is in my Spanish and Algebra classes. This is like his first week at Hillcrest. He is a nice guy. He’s got all the girls like all over him. He’s cute. And hot!”

“Hey! Why are you looking at him and thinking he’s cute and hot? I mean, you’re my boyfriend! No wandering eyes, Mr. Cantham.”

“Hey yourself, Jase. My official mantra is ‘look but don’t touch’. And besides, you know it’s only you that I love.”

“Yeah, I know, I’m just yanking your chain.”

“Ooo! What else of mine are you going to yank?”

“You have a dirty mind.”

“And like you don’t?”

They had walked for another couple minutes when Ron glanced at Jason.

“Ya know, I’ve been thinking about Leshawn and now Kevin, too. Do you ever think of them as being Black?”

“You mean African American. No, not really.” Jason thought for a few seconds. “I think about Leshawn as one of us, and that he has this really cool shiny dark black skin color. Kevin has lighter skin color than Leshawn. His is more like a cup of hot chocolate. Jayden’s skin color is somewhere between Leshawn and Kevin.

“You know, someone’s race really doesn’t make any difference, does it. It depends on who they are, like Jayden, Leshawn, and Kevin are African American. Mike and Doug are Asian, and on top of that Mike is Japanese and Doug and his little brother Darryl are Chinese. Todd has almost flaming red hair, almost like he colors it. You have auburn colored hair that’s got a lot of red in it and you keep it mostly neat. My hair is brown and is always messy because it has a mind of its own. Those are all superficial, they don’t make any difference. It’s who someone is on the inside, here,” Jason taped Ron on the top of his head, “and here,” Jason tapped Ron on his chest right over his heart. “That’s what counts, what kind of person you are. What counts about our friends is that they are all really nice guys. Your skin color, eye color, hair color, where you were born, where you live, whether you’re a guy or a girl, whether you’re gay or straight, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or none of those, absolutely none of that counts. It’s only what’s in your heart and your mind.” Jason grinned. “There’s an old movie where the actor says ‘That’s all doo-doo!’ and that’s what all the parts that don’t count are, doo-doo.”

“That’s pretty deep, Jase. And what you said is right on.”

They continued the rest of their half mile walk in silence. Ron, in particular, thinking that his boyfriend is a very smart guy, and Jason thinking about why there is so much hate in the world.

It took them a total of about fifteen minutes to walk from Hillcrest High to the Allied Security Services offices so Jason could drop off the poster for Charlie Phillips.

When they got to the entrance of the building Ron grabbed Jason’s arm. “Uh, maybe I’d better wait outside.”

“Why? Come on in. If he’s there I want you to meet him. If he isn’t, you’ll see what the inside of a real business office looks like.”

“Alright. I guess.”

Jason opened the glass door at the corner of the building and practically had to drag Ron inside. The receptionist looked up and smiled at the two young teens.

“May I help you?”

“Yes, is Charlie Phillips in?”

“As a matter of fact, he is. He’s in the changing room. I’ll page him for you. Who can I tell him is here to see him?”

“Jason Phillips.” He couldn’t avoid grinning when he said his last name. He expected a reaction from the receptionist, but she was way cool and simply smiled. She picked up her phone and he heard her call the page: “Charles Phillips, there’s a visitor in the front lobby to see you, a Mister Jason Phillips.”

“Have a seat. I expect that he’ll be here in a few minutes.”

There were comfortable looking chairs and couches for visitors, and Jason sat on one of the couches. Ron still seemed uncomfortable, so Jason patted the seat next to him. Ron took a deep breath and sat down.

“What is it with you, Ron? You seem all tense. No one here is going to bite you.”

“This reminds me of the waiting room at Redwood Hospital when my dad went in to have his hernia fixed. This sort of thing creeps me out.”

“You’d better start getting used to it. Every time you go for a job interview you’re going to be in this kind of environment. This isn’t a hospital, it’s an office building. Chill, Mr. Cantham. That’s an order.” Jason bumped Ron’s arm.

Ron saw a Car and Driver magazine on the table in front of the couch and grabbed it to have something to do other than get even more nervous about being in a business office environment. Jason flipped through an Architectural Digest magazine. He’d never seen that magazine before, and as he looked at some of the featured homes he began to realize how the so-called ‘one percent’ really lived.

“Hi. You’re Jason, right?”

Jason looked up and smiled at Charlie Phillips. He stood, put out his hand and they shook hands.

“Charlie, this is my best friend Ron Cantham. He helped me with some ideas about that poster I told you I was designing. I have your copy with me.”

Charlie grinned and sat down on the chair next to the couch. Jason sat and, after a couple seconds, Ron did as well.

“I have your copy of the poster I designed. I’ll show it to you and tell you a little about how I made it.”

“That’s great. Should be interesting. I don’t know anything about how that sort of thing could be done.”

Jason realized that this would also be the first time that Ron would see the poster. He opened the portfolio and removed the manila envelope. Charlie moved the magazines out of the way, and Jason pulled out the poster and laid it on the table. Ron got up and walked around to stand next to where Charlie sat so he could have a better view of the poster.

Charlie stared at the poster, looked up at Jason, and then back at the poster. “You did this? All by yourself?”

“Yes, with Ron who helped by suggesting how I could position the headshots I took,” Jason replied.

“Nobody else helped you?”

“No one else helped.”

“This is amazing. There are hundreds of these heads… and this is that statue in the library, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

Charlie looked up, smiled, and stared at Jason. “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s wonderful.” He looked across to the receptionist, then back to Jason.

“Can I take it over there and show Margie?”

“Sure, it’s your copy of the poster.”

“Come on over with me. You too, Ron.” Ron was surprised and pleased that Charlie would include him.

They got up and walked over to the receptionist. Charlie held the poster so she could see it.

“Margie, last Saturday I caught this interloper,” Charlie looked at Jason and grinned, “on the top level of the Main Street Garage. He had his camera, and claimed that he had a school project and needed to take pictures from that location. He showed me some of the pictures that he’d taken. They were shots of people’s heads taken from above. So instead of shagging him outta there I said he could stick around and take pictures for a half hour. He said he’d bring me a copy of the poster he was designing. This is it.”

“Wow, that’s really good. You should ask him to sign it for you, Charlie.”

“Would you sign it for me, Jason?”

“Yeah. It won’t show very well if I sign it on the front. This is extra high gloss photo paper, and it resists ink pens and ball point pens. Is it okay if I sign it on the back?”

“Yes, that’ll be fine. Can you sign it ‘For Charlie from Jason Phillips’ and today’s date?”

“Sure.” Margie handed Jason a gel pen. He turned the poster over and signed it the way Charlie had requested.

“You know, Jason, I’m thinking that I should pay you something for this.” Charlie said.

“Absolutely not. This is a gift from one Phillips to another, from me to you.”

“Well, thank you. I love it. I’m going to take it to Cheap Pete’s and have it framed. You know, this is the first piece of art that that anyone’s ever given to me?”

“Thanks, but I don't think I’d call my poster ‘art’.”

Margie stepped into the conversation. “I disagree. Art is in the eye of the beholder. If Charlie thinks it’s art, then for Charlie it is art. I also think that it’s art.”

Jason smiled. “Whatever you say. Thanks to both of you for your compliments.”

Charlie put the poster back in the envelope. “I’m going to have to leave for home now, my family is waiting dinner.” He shook hands with Jason. “Jason, you are very generous. You should be proud about what you created. I love it. I’m honored to be related to you, even if it’s only by our last names.” He grinned and then he shook hands with Ron. “Ron, thanks for helping Jason with his project. You two make me feel good about teenage kids. You’re a great example of how teens should be, can be, and are. I’m sure you two are role models for the kids you know.”

“Wow, thanks. Enjoy your poster, Mr. Phillips. I’m so glad that you like it.”

“Oh, something quick. Jason, what’s your teacher’s name?”

“Mr. Hunter.” Jason stopped and thought for a few seconds. “It’s Robert Hunter. Why?”

“I’m going to write him and tell him what a wonderful student he has in his photography class. Alright, I really have to get home. So long, guys.”

“So long, Mr. Phillips.”

After he left Jason walked to the reception desk. “Thank you, too, Margie.”

“Your welcome, both of you.”

Jason and Ron left the office and walked down California Street to the other corner of the building to The Habit for their burgers.

“Remember, this is my treat, Ron.”

“I think a cheeseburger and Coke is enough for me.”

“Me too. I don’t want to spoil my dinner.”

“That reminds me, Jase. Please don’t tell my mom that we had a burger on the way home.”

“You know we’re going to smell like we just ate burgers, don’t you?”

“Not after I rinse my mouth with my last few gulps of Coke, and suck on a couple mints.” Ron pulled a tin of wintergreen flavor mints out of his backpack. “Two of these work every time.”

Jason placed the order, and despite saying ‘I don’t want to spoil my dinner’ he added an order of onion rings, and paid as he had offered. They sat outside and ate their burgers.

“I think it’s interesting how excited Charlie got about your poster, Jase. He’s right, too. It is a fantastic poster. I want you to sign the back of mine when we get to my house.”

“Will do, bud. Thanks for the compliment.” Again, Jason looked directly at Ron and didn’t blush. He grinned, partially because of what Ron said and partially because he’d figured out how to accept praise.

When they finished Ron sat back and rubbed his stomach. “I, sir, am stuffed.”

“Yeah, me too,” Jason agreed. “Let’s truck. It’s about a half hour walk to your house from here.”

“We could take the bus?” Ron suggested.

“Nope. It’ll be better if we walk off this burger and rings. Our folks aren’t going to expect us any earlier than four thirty or five anyway.”

“You’re right. Let’s go.”

“I just realized something. We are officially on spring break right now, Mr. Cantham!”

“Whoa! You’re right. That means we can take forty-five minutes to get home if we want.”

It took them exactly thirty-seven minutes to get to Ron’s house.

“Hey, Mom, I’m home. Jase is with me!” Ron shouted as he and Jason walked into the Cantham residence.

Ron’s mom walked into the living room where the two teens were shedding their backpacks and removing their shoes, a standard thing for them to do at the Cantham’s.

“I heard you come clomping in and slamming the front door shut. You didn’t really need to shout to announce your presence,” Tammy teased as she led them to the kitchen.

“Aw, Mom, I just wanted to make sure you knew that we weren’t robbers or rapists or something like that.”

“Rapists? Where did you come up with that?”

“The news on TV last night.”

“Well, you don’t need to talk about things like that around here.” She looked at Jason who seemed uncomfortable with where the conversation had been diverted.

“How are you, Jason? Glad that you’re on spring break now?”

“Oh, yeah! Very glad about spring break. And I’m good. No, I’m better than good.”

“And why is that?”

“Everything seems to be going my way this week. I showed my Photography class project in class today. Mr. Hunter, he’s the teacher, said that what I did is college level. He said I’m getting an A-plus. Of course, there isn’t any way for him to give me an A-plus in the grade book, but I like that he said it.”

“Is that what you have in your portfolio?”

“Yes. I have a copy for Ron. He was a big help, giving me ideas about how I could overlay the images on my poster.”

“Well, can I see it?”

“Sure.”

Jason opened the portfolio and took out a copy, Ron’s copy. He laid it on the kitchen table.

“Oh, my! That is excellent, Jason.” Tammy picked up the poster and examined it closely. “I love the way these little pictures of people’s heads blend into each other so it appears seamless.” She looked at him. “How did you do that?”

“There are features in Photoshop that I used to get that effect.”

Tammy looked all over the poster like she was trying to find something. “Did you repeat any of the images, or is each there only one time?”

“Each headshot is there only one time. I used six hundred of the pictures I took last weekend.”

“Six hundred pictures. That’s amazing. Is that the sculpture that’s in the library? The one you can’t see unless you look through a camera lens?”

“Uh huh. I blended it in so it’s like a ghost image. I didn’t want it to detract from the headshots.”

“How did you come up with the idea to do these ‘headshots’ as you call them?”

Jason told her the story about taking pictures from the top floor of the garage and getting caught by the guard, that his last name is Phillips but he’s African American, and how Jason offered to give him a poster and ended up making him a friend, and that he gave him his copy of the poster on their way home, and the guard’s reaction. Jason realized that he could give this talk without having to think about what to say. It had become automatic.

Tammy smiled at her son’s boyfriend. “Jason, I think you did a great job. I am very impressed. And Ron, I’m glad that you were able to help Jason with his project. You two make a great team. I love you both.”

She hugged Jason, then Ron. Jason was just a little teared up, but he blinked them away.

“Thanks, Mrs. Cantham. Do you have a pen I can borrow? Like one of those gel pens?”

“Will one of these do?” Tammy handed Jason a coffee mug filled with various kinds of pens. Jason looked at the mug of pens and chuckled. “Instead of tossing pens in our junk drawer, we keep them together so we can find them when we need them,” she explained.

Jason found a black ink gel pen. He preferred gel pens for signing the back of the posters because he didn’t have to press down hard to write, and that kept any impression of what he wrote from showing on the front of the print.

“There you go, Ron. A signed copy of Headlines.”

Ron turned the poster over and read the inscription. He dropped the poster on the table and rushed at a startled Jason, grabbed him in a hug and kissed him, a big, wet, noisy kiss on the lips. “I love you Jase, and it’s also forever and always for me.”

Tammy stole a glance at what Jason had written on the back of the poster and smiled. Oh my God, how she loved these two boys!

Inscription Jason wrote on Ron's poster

 

[Continued]


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