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?
Mrs. Cross clapped her hands to get the boys’ attention and made an announcement. “We’re going to serve the cake. What we’re going to do is move the cake to the other picnic table and we’ll cut it. What you should do is start at the end of the table that has ice cream and get yourself a bowl with whatever flavors you want. Then come to the end where we’ll be cutting the cake and we’ll hand a plate with a slice for each of you. There’s plenty of cake and ice cream, so don’t be shy if you want to come back for more.”
With eleven guys sitting at the table, six on one side and five on the other, things were a bit crowded. But no one seemed to care or even notice. Jason and Ron sat next to each other and across from Doug and Mike.
“How you guys doing?” Ron asked.
“Same-as,” Doug replied.
“Nah, not same-as,” Mike said with a grin. “This is spring break, and same-as would be if we were still going to school.”
“I gotta agree with that,” Jason added.
“Me too!” Larry said, joining the conversation. “I haven’t met you two guys yet. I’m Larry Grant, the younger but smarter of the Grant twins.”
“Hi. I’m Doug Lin.”
Larry looked at Doug and smiled. “I’ve read about you in the Times,” Larry said. “You’re really good. It’s cool that someone who’s not over six feet tall can be a great basketball player.”
Doug blushed. “Thanks for the compliment, Larry.”
Larry nodded and continued to smile at Doug.
“Hi, I’m Mark Nakamura. So you told us you’re younger but smarter than your twin brother. Why is that?”
“I’m sitting here in the middle of everyone while my older and not as smart twin brother is sitting at the end of the table way down there.” Larry pointed to his left. “Not only that, he’s sitting across from our cousin Leshawn and next to our cousin Kevin so he’s not meeting many guys he’s never met before as opposed to where I am sitting and everyone around here is someone new for me.”
“So you planned the seating to end up this way?” Todd asked. He sat across from Larry.
“I’d like to say I did, but no. It just happened this way without any intervention from or planning by me. But I’m glad it worked out this way. I’ll switch with Art after we go for seconds on the cake and ice cream. That way he can meet and talk with you guys. So, Doug, tell me about yourself.”
“Well, I’m on the Hillcrest basketball team.”
“Yeah, I know that already. Are you a freshman?”
“No. I’m a sophomore. So’s Mike.”
Doug looked confused. “What are you sorry about?”
“For thinking you were a freshman.”
“What’s wrong with being a freshman?”
“Uh... nothing, I guess. I’m a freshman. It’s just that I thought sophomores didn’t, you know, like freshmen.”
“That’s just crazy,” Mike said, “freshmen and sophomores are only one year different in age. That’s just about the same.”
“At Alcosta the sophomores are stuck up and won’t talk to freshmen.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding,” Doug replied.
“You know,” Ron said, “Jase and I thought it would be the same way at Hillcrest, but we met Doug and Mike and we’re friends now.”
“That’s cool. I guess I just have to live with what it’s like where we go to school,” Larry added. “How about you, Mike, do you go out for any sports?”
“I play baseball. I’m going to try out for the varsity team this year. I was shortstop on the junior varsity team last year. How about you, Larry?”
“No sports for me or Art. We like to swim and play tennis, but just for fun. How about you guys?” He poked Ron on this shoulder and looked around Ron at Jason.
“Same as you, Larry,” Ron replied. “We don’t go out for any sports, but we like to swim and play tennis just for fun too.”
“Yeah,” added Jason, “you and Art should come to my house. We have a pool and a tennis court in our back yard.”
“Wow, that sounds great,” Larry replied. “We don’t have a pool so we come to Leshawn’s to swim. We go to the municipal tennis courts but they’re really crowded on the weekends. We’d use the courts at Alcosta High, but it’s hard to get court time during fall semester because the girls’ teams are using the courts, and in the spring the boys’ teams are using them. If it’s okay we’d like to take you up on your offer.”
“Sure. Just give me a call. You have your cell with you?”
“Yeah, it’s with my clothes in the pool house.”
“That’s where mine is too. Let’s swap numbers when we get dressed later.”
Larry smiled. “Sounds good.” He looked across the table at Todd. “How about you, Todd. I assume you go out for basketball.”
“I don’t go out for any sports.”
“Really? I’m surprised. You’re sure tall enough! Hasn’t your coach tried to talk you into playing?”
“Man, if you were at Alcosta the coach would be all over you trying to get you to go out for the team.”
Doug watched Todd during this exchange. He whispered to Ron, “Poke Marcus and tell him to talk to Todd about going out for basketball.”
Ron bumped Marcus with his shoulder. He whispered, “This is a good time for you to talk Todd into going out for the basketball team.”
Marcus nodded, and waited for a point in the conversation where he could start talking to Todd.
“You know, Todd, you’d make a great addition to the Hillcrest basketball program. Coach Larsen would love to have a guy like you on the team. You’re already taking weight training seventh period, why don’t you talk to Coach and give it a try?”
Doug turned, looked at Todd, and smiled. “I’ve seen you play pickup games at school and you’re good. I’d like you to come to our next practice to see how you like playing on a team. Coach Larsen likes to have guys try out when we have practice. We’ve got a great bunch of guys on the team and I know they’ll like you and you’ll fit right in with the rest of us.”
“I’m telling you, if Doug Lin says you’ll fit in on the Hillcrest basketball team, then you’ll fit in,” Marcus added.
Todd didn’t say anything for a few seconds. Then he said, “I can’t.”
“Todd, why not?” Doug asked.
“So what? I’m gay too, and I’m out and no one on the team cares about that.”
“So the rumors are true?”
“Yup. Mike and I are boyfriends.”
“And nobody on the team ever says anything to you?”
“The only thing I ever hear is when there’s a good looking guy on an opposing team they’ll tell me something like ‘Hey, that guy is really cute’ and point him out to me. They know Mike and I are boyfriends so I know it’s just in fun.”
“I don’t know why you’d be worried,” Marcus said, “You and Jayden are out at school and he’s going out for varsity football next year. Do you think he’d be hassled?”
“No, Jayden is big enough and strong enough to put any homophobic asshole jock in his place. I’m not. I might be tall, but I’m not built like Jayden.”
Doug stood up and held his arms away from his sides. “Look at me, Todd. I’m not built like Jayden either. And the guys on the basketball team aren’t like the jocks you read about in stories. Larry, are the jocks at Alcosta homophobic assholes?”
“The only ones I know are freshmen, and they aren’t that way at all. They’re just regular guys. I agree the things you read about jocks aren’t true, at least based on the ones I know.”
“You know I write a sports column for the Eagles’ Lair, Todd,” Marcus added. He turned to Larry, “The Eagles’ Lair is the Hillcrest school paper.” Turning back to Todd he continued, “I get to know the members of our teams. So far I’ve met all of the guys who are out for fall, winter, and spring sports. I haven’t met anyone who has the kind of jock mentality like I’ve read about. They’re all nice guys. They do hang around together a lot, especially during their seasons, but they aren’t the dumb jock type you might have read about.”
“So,” Doug asked Todd, “will you come out to our next practice? It’s this coming Thursday at two in the afternoon.”
Jayden had been listening in to the conversation. He got up from the far end of the table and walked over to where Todd sat and began massaging his shoulders. “Come on, Todd, say yes. I’ll come with you.”
Todd looked up at Jayden and grinned. “Hey, Jay, does that mean you’ll come out for basketball too?”
“As if!” Jayden replied. “I’d be knocking all of you skinny ass little basketball players down all the time. My game is football; my job is to knock the opposing players down.”
“Never happen. You’d get your five fouls in the first five minutes of the game and be relegated to the bench,” Todd replied.
By then everyone who wasn’t seated near him stood around Todd, either in back of him or in back of the opposite bench. Everyone, except Larry and Art, told Todd he should go to the practice on Thursday and see how he liked team play and what Coach Larsen thought about him joining the team.
After a few minutes of this banter Todd stood up and put his hands over his ears.
“Alright! Alright! Enough, already. I’ll go try out at the practice on Thursday. You have to come with me, Jay. And you too, Marcus. Doug, you’ll be there because you’re on the team already. If it works out, that’s okay and I’ll see where it goes. If it doesn’t, that’s okay and it’ll be over and done with. Anyone have a problem with that?”
“I do,” shouted Larry, “I don’t want you to try out. We’ve gotta play you guys in two weeks and we don’t need anyone who’s good being added to your team!”
That was met with a round of boos except, of course, from Art who agreed with Larry.
Ron stood and picked up his plate. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m hungry. Out of my way, I’ve gotta get some more cake and ice cream.”
He pushed his way past Leshawn and Jason who were standing behind him and headed for the next picnic table. Mrs. Cross, anticipating the boys would be ready for seconds, had cut more cake.
“Here you go, Ron,” she said as she put a big slice of cake on his plate. “Don’t forget your ice cream.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Cross!”
The others decided they needed more cake and ice cream, all except Doug, and when they got back they concentrated on eating. As Larry had said, he and Art switched places. Once the guys had time for talking, Art and the others introduced themselves officially.
Art grinned at Doug. “So, about this little bet we have with you guys. You think you’re going to wipe up the court with us when we play you next week. Are you all usually this delusional?”
Doug looked confused. “What bet?”
“Oh. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it. Wouldn’t want to freak out the star basketball player for Hillcrest by letting him in on our little wager depends on his performance for Hillcrest.”
“Doug,” Ron said, “before you and Mike got here, we were having a bit of a discussion about our game with Alcosta a week from Friday. Seems they think their team is going to win. We thought otherwise. So I decided to make it interesting and we have a little bet on the winner of the game.”
“A bet? You shouldn’t bet on our games!” Mike said. “Isn’t betting illegal or something?”
“Ah ha!” Larry replied, followed by a nasty chuckle, “So Mike, you guys are trying to weasel out of the bet, ‘eh?”
“I don’t even know the details about the bet, so no one’s weaseling out of anything. Ron, please let me and Doug know what this bet is all about.”
“First, it’s a personal bet between me and Art. We bet one dollar, in the form of one crisp, new one-dollar bill, on the results of the game. If Hillcrest wins, Art owes me one crisp, new one-dollar bill. If Alcosta wins, I owe Art one crisp, new one-dollar bill.”
“Sounds good to me,” Mike announced.
“Me too,” Doug added.
“I guess we’ll just have to see what the results are at the end of the game,” Art replied.
“So tell us what Alcosta High is like. I don’t think any of us knows much about your school,” Jason asked Art.
“It’s an okay school. It’s too big with too many buildings spread out all over the place. Too many students, almost twenty-three-hundred.”
“Two thousand three hundred students? In four grades?” Ron asked. “Man, that’s huge for schools around here.”
“Yeah, it is.”
Ron shook his head and said, “I’m sure glad I don’t live where I’d have to go to a school that big.”
Doug wondered about something. “With that many students you should have really good sports teams. But we beat you in football this year, and we’re favored in basketball and most other sports. Any idea why, Art?”
“No idea, and I agree with you. Maybe we’re in an area where lots of kids don’t want to go out for sports. Or it could be how much parents have to pay for their kid to participate. I found out if you want to be on the football team there’s a participation fee of four hundred dollars. And parents have to pay for shoes with cleats and a special concussion resistant helmet.”
“They don’t have to pay for the uniform?”
“It’s included in the four hundred dollars, I guess.”
Jayden decided to talk about the fees at Hillcrest. “My folks pay a three-hundred-dollar participation fee for football, and we buy our own shoes with cleats and the special helmets too. It’s a little less than at Alcosta, but still expensive.”
“What if someone is really good but his folks don’t have the money?” Jason asked.
“The Hillcrest Athletics Foundation, which is parents and business people from our area, has a fund for kids whose parents can’t afford to pay for things themselves,” Jayden replied.
“The Alcosta Boosters Foundation does the same thing,” Art added.
“How about basketball, Doug?” Ron asked.
“We have a participation fee too. I think it’s two hundred dollars. It mostly pays for bus transportation because we have a lot of games and about half are away.”
“Baseball is the same,” Mike said, “and the fee is two hundred dollars mostly to pay for the bus to away games. We buy our own uniforms, shoes with cleats, helmets, and gloves. The catcher’s equipment is paid for by the school, and so are bats. We can’t use our own bats. We have to use certified wood bats now. Oh, the school also pays for baseballs. It’s expensive because balls get damaged by being hit or because they go out of the field when we hit home runs, and of course we hit home runs a lot.” He grinned.
“As if,” Doug mumbled. Ron and Jason heard him, and laughed.
“High school sports are expensive,” Marcus said. “I wrote a story about the costs and where the money comes from and goes, but my Journalism teacher didn’t want to print it without getting the school district’s permission. I’m still waiting for the okay.”
“Why would your teacher want to get permission?” Todd asked. “Are they trying to hide something?”
“I don’t think they’re hiding anything. It’s just when money’s involved the school gets real uptight. They don’t want anyone to sue because they don’t like what the school is paying for, or what the school isn’t paying for. It can get complicated.”
The conversation changed to subjects and classes and teachers at Hillcrest and Alcosta. They talked about what the food was like in each school’s cafeteria, and they concluded it was pretty much awful at both schools. Then the talk switched to other things, like what they would be doing over spring break, which teachers assigned projects to be completed during spring break, which sports had the best looking guys and even Art and Larry participated which surprised Jason and Ron and several others.
Finally, it was time to go. Jason and Ron went to the pool house and changed, Jason swapped cell numbers and email addresses with Larry, and Ron called his folks to pick them up and said he didn’t want any dinner. Probably.
They said goodbye to everyone, especially to Mr. and Mrs. Cross. They left the sodas and dumped out the ice and took the cooler chest to return to Jason’s folks. Then Ron’s dad arrived and they left.
When Jason got home he rushed upstairs to shower and get the chlorine off his body. When he finished and went downstairs the first thing he said was he didn’t need or want any dinner. They’d had way too much to eat at Leshawn’s pool party. His folks and sisters wanted to know all about the pool party. He told them but left out some of the more personal bits, like Leshawn’s sexy white Speedo swim briefs, their idea to work on Marcus and Leshawn so they would become boyfriends, and how all but two of the kids at the pool party were gay, and they weren’t sure about those two.
When he finished he went upstairs to check his email, text, and Facebook accounts. Ron had sent an email asking what he wanted to do after church on Sunday. Jason replied:
‘I don’t know, what do you want to do?’
He looked at what he’d sent and laughed. This was exactly what he and Ron often did, and he expected Ron to simply copy his message and send it back. Sure enough, about five minutes later he got Ron’s reply:
‘I don’t know, what do YOU want to do?’
Jason laughed and pickup up his cell and speed-dialed Ron.
“Ron the magnificent speaking!”
“Dufus!” Jason replied. “I don’t know what to do tomorrow. You wanna play video games, shoot some baskets, go see a movie, go downtown and wander in the stores, ride BART into San Francisco, go on a hike, or what? I don’t care. Your day to choose.”
“My day to choose? Why is it my day to choose?”
“Because I was the first one to say it.”
“Who invented that rule?”
“Me, because I was the first to think of it. So, what do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. Let’s pick it by process of elimination. It’s too hot outside to go hiking today and tomorrow’s going to be the same, so scratch that. Ditto for shooting baskets, so scratch that. Ditto going downtown, so scratch that. So let’s see, it leaves... uh... going to a movie, playing video games, or... I know there was something else but I can’t remember it.”
“Ride BART into San Francisco.”
“Okay. Of those three I’d scratch video games. We can do that any time. A movie might be okay, depending on what’s playing. Going into San Francisco sounds cool. We can wander around downtown and go to the big department stores. Then we could go to Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building then maybe take the ferry to Angel Island.”
“Sounds okay, but... I’m not sure I want to do anything that active. I’m tired out from today. Maybe a movie would be better.”
“Okay, that works for me. What movie?”
“Lemme look in up on the Times website and see what’s playing at the Cineplex.” Jason logged on to the local newspaper website and checked the movie schedules.
“Okay, let’s see. There’s a comedy sci-fi flick, Paul, and there are showings about every half hour starting at ten o’clock. It got good reviews, three stars from the Times, Rotten Tomatoes gave it 71% and the audience feedback was 69%. Then there’s an action sci-fi flick playing, Battle: Los Angeles, and there are showings about every half hour starting at ten fifteen. It’s about a bunch of Marines that hold off an alien invasion of Los Angeles, I think. Lots of action and battle scenes. The Times gave it one and a half stars, Rotten Tomatoes gave it 35%, and the audience feedback was 49%. I’d say Paul is the way to go. I’m in for a comedy anyway. What do you think?”
“Sounds like Paul is the way to go. What time do you want to go?”
“How about the ten thirty show? That way we can get out just before noon and go to Chipotle or Buckhorn Grill for lunch.”
“How about Cheesecake Factory for lunch?”
“Too expensive. What we can do is go one of the other places for lunch then go to Cheesecake Factory for cheesecake for dessert. Can you guess what kind I’ll get?”
“I know, key lime cheesecake. I’ll get it too. It’s awesome.”
“I’ll go tell my folks what we want to do and get their okay. If there’s any hangup I’ll give you a call, but it should be no problemo.”
“Okay, talk to you later. Bye, Jase.”
Jason ended the call and went downstairs. Betty and Tim were in the family room reading.
“Excuse me,” he said.
Betty looked up from her book. “Hi, Jase. What did you want?”
“Is it okay if Ron and I go to the movies tomorrow after church?”
“What’s the film you’re going to see?”
“It’s a comedy science fiction story, Paul. It got good reviews.”
“What’s the rating?” Tim asked.
“It isn’t listed on the Cineplex website, but I think it’s probably PG since it’s described as a slapstick comedy and science fiction story with an alien that looks like the one from E.T. If it’s higher than PG we wouldn’t be able to buy the tickets and we’d have to pick a different movie.”
“What time are you planning on going?”
“There’s a ten thirty show. We’ll be back from church by then, so we’ll go to that one and then when we get out we’ll go to Buckhorn or Chipotle for lunch and get a slice of cheesecake for dessert at Cheesecake Factory, then if it isn’t too hot we’ll wander around downtown for a while then come home.”
“Alright. You have enough money?”
“Yeah. The early shows are only five dollars, lunch shouldn’t be over about ten or twelve dollars, and the cheesecake is about seven dollars.”
Tim stood and pulled out his wallet. “Here’s a twenty. Have a good time.”
“Thanks, Dad. Say, Mom, when I talked to Father Darcy today he suggested we go to Mass at St. Stephen’s or St. John Vianney instead of St. Mary’s. What do you think? Maybe you’d like to try out one or the other tomorrow to see what it’s like. If you switch from St. Mary’s I might like going to Mass once again.”
“Well, that’s an interesting idea,” Betty replied. “Maybe we’ll go to one of them next week. We’re meeting with Father Langston after the nine o’clock mass tomorrow to talk about preparation for Thea’s confirmation.” She thought for a few seconds. “You know, Jen and Thea still go to St. Mary’s Church. That’s where Thea will be confirmed. I’m very reluctant to switch the church we go to right now.”
“You know, I can’t go to St. Mary’s any more. I have to hide from Father Morton and Monsignor Valle all the time. I don’t think I’ll go to church tomorrow. Besides, if you’re meeting with Father Langston then we wouldn’t get back in time for me to go to the ten thirty show.”
Betty wasn’t happy with Jason’s decision, but perhaps it would only be one Sunday. She could understand his reluctance to continue going to St. Mary’s. She would sit down with Jen and Thea and talk about switching to St. Stephen’s. Still, it would have to be after Thea’s confirmation.
“How about all five of us go to St. Stephen’s next Sunday? We can see what it’s like and more importantly, how you like it, Jase.”
“Okay. I’m going to go upstairs and write thank-you notes to Mr. and Mrs. Cross for the party today.”
“Jase, what did you find out from your talk with Father Darcy this morning?” Betty asked.
Jason summarized his conversation with Father Darcy, including a little more than he’d originally planned, but mostly sticking to covering only the more general topics. He concluded by saying he thought the meeting was worthwhile, and he’d meet with Father Darcy again in about a year.
That pleased Betty. She decided this would be a good time to talk to Jason about having a session with Doctor Byers.
“Jase, please sit down for a minute. There’s something your father and I want to discuss with you. You probably wondered why I seemed to change so quickly and accept what you told us. It happened because of my first meeting with Doctor Byers, a family counselor who specializes in helping parents adjust when a child tells them he or she is gay. Your father and I had another meeting with him the other day and he suggested you meet with him this week. The meeting would take about an hour, and most of it would be Doctor Byers asking you questions. You’ll find him very accepting and friendly. He’s definitely not homophobic. In my first meeting with him he told me in no certain terms that saying that you’re ‘homosexual’ isn’t acceptable, and I should say that you’re gay. I have to say he read me the riot act and made me understand I needed to make a serious attitude adjustment. Which I have done. Anyway, he wants to meet you and talk to you.”
“Is he some sort of shrink?” Jason demanded.
“No,” Tim replied. “He is a family counselor who specializes in families with a gay child.”
“I don’t know why I have to see someone else when I’ve just seen Father Darcy.”
“Jason,” Tim responded, “he will get information from you that will let him identify topics he can then discuss with me and your mom to make sure we react in a positive way to the fact that you’re gay, and we understand what it means to have a gay son. A gay son who we love totally and unconditionally.”
Jason sat back, closed his eyes, and rubbed his temples. Betty had to grin because that’s what Tim would do when he was trying to make a difficult decision.
After a few seconds Jason looked up and addressed his parents.
“Can I refuse to answer one of his questions when it’s something I don’t want him or you to know?”
“Like what,” Betty wanted to know.
“Oh, say he asks me how many times I masturbate each day. I don’t want you or him to know that, it’s personal.”
Betty’s face was red with embarrassment. She never expected Jason to be as blunt and personal as that. Then she realized what he meant, that question would be too personal.
“I think the answer is ‘yes’ and I wouldn’t want to know even if you’d answered that question if Doctor Byers asked it.”
Tim had a difficult time suppressing his laughter, but he did hold it in.
“I agree with your mother, Jase.”
“When would I go?”
“I called his office,” Betty answered Jason, “and he has two o’clock available this Monday and four o’clock on Friday. Which would you prefer?”
“Alright, I’ll set it up. I’ll drive you there and go shopping while you’re meeting with him, and return to pick you up at three.” Betty didn’t tell Jason or Tim that she’d already made the appointment for Jason to see Doctor Byers on Monday at two.
“Okay,” Jason said with a sigh, “I sure hope this is the last of this kind of meeting I’m being sent to.” He almost said ‘subjected to’ but decided that would just start an argument.
“Jase,” Tim said, “you told us your meeting with Father Darcy was valuable. I think you’ll find your meeting with Doctor Byers will also be valuable.”
“Alright, I’ll stop complaining about this sort of thing. But I still hope this is the last meeting about me being gay.”
Tim smiled at Jason and told him, “I think it will, Jase, I think it will.”
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