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?
“Okay,” Jason said. “Since you’re not willing to select something for us to do, let’s do something practical. Let’s phone Kevin and find out if he and Steve want to go with us for something to eat after the game. Then let’s go out and shoot some baskets.”
“Ugh. I’m tired of shooting baskets. You know what we haven’t done in like forever?”
“Getting on our skateboards and just skateboarding around the neighborhood. No trick stuff, just tripping.”
“Ya know, that sounds good. We’ll have to stop by your house to get your board.” Jason grinned. “See, Ron, it was your turn to choose and you did. So there!”
“No, it was your turn to choose and because of your total failure to do so I had to step in and let my brilliance take over. So there!”
“Whatever, we still should call Kevin before he and Steve get to the theater.”
“You have his cell number?” Ron asked, “Because I don’t.”
“Yeah, I have it. I’ll beam it to you.” Jason pulled up his contacts, found and selected Kevin’s cell number, and beamed it to Ron’s phone number. Then he called Kevin.
“Hello. Kevin here. Which makes sense, after all this is my cell phone you called!”
Jason chuckled. “Hi, Kevin. This is Jase. Ron and I are wondering if you and Steve would like to go somewhere after the game and grab dinner?”
“That sounds great. Where to?”
“Whatever you guys would like. We’re easy.”
“How about Thai? There’s that Thai place on Mt. Diablo Boulevard. It’s a little pricey but not horrible.”
“I went there with my family and it came out under twenty bucks each. Lemme ask Ron.” Jason turned to Ron. “Kevin wants to go to the Thai place on Mount Diablo. Is twenty bucks okay?”
“Yeah, I can do that,” Ron replied. “We haven’t gone out for a nice meal in a long time, Jase. This can be like a double date.”
“I like that. Hey, Kev, that’s okay with us. Ron said it’ll be like a double date.”
“That’ll be fun. My first date ever and it’s a double date.” Kevin chuckled.
“We’ll see you at the game.”
“Okay, see ya.”
“Let’s get my skateboard. It’s hanging in the garage, and we can head to your place for your board.” Jason said.
They went downstairs where Betty was in the kitchen adding items to her shopping list.
“Mom, I talked to Kevin and he’s going to come with us after the game. And Steve’s going to come too. Maybe others, but we’ll find out at the game. Anyway, we’re going to that Thai place on Mount Diablo for dinner.”
“My, that’s rather expensive, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, about twenty dollars I guess. But we all love Thai food and it’s the best and isn’t any more expensive than the other Thai places that aren’t as good. And itís close, so we can walk there after the game and walk home after we eat.”
“Hold on, I’ll give you some cash.” Betty went upstairs and returned in a couple minutes. “Here, thirty dollars. Don’t spend it all in one place.” She smiled and handed Jason a twenty and two five dollar bills. “How about you, Ron. Do you have enough cash to eat there?”
“Yes, ma’am. Besides, we’re stopping at my house to get... uh... on the way.” Ron wasn’t sure if Jason’s mom would object to them going skateboarding so he removed the reason for stopping at his house from the conversation.
Jason hugged his mother. “Thanks mom, we’ll see you later. We’re going to stop back before we go to the gym and get a jacket in case it’s cool this evening.”
“Good idea, Jason. Have fun skateboarding.” Betty grinned and raised her eyebrows at them.
“You knew that we’re going skateboarding?” Ron asked.
“Yes. I overheard you talking about it when you two were in Jason’s room. With the door open. You’re both going to use your helmets, gloves, and knee and elbow pads, right?”
“Yes, Mom,” Jason said. He turned to Ron. “Come on, let’s get my board and safety equipment and get going.”
When they were in the garage Ron poked Jason’s shoulder.
“I feel so silly now. I almost told your mom that we were going skateboarding, but then I wondered if she might not be happy about us doing that so I didn’t say the reason we were stopping at my house was to get my board. But she knew all along!”
“And now you’re going to get to use your board and your helmet and gloves and pads, too. My mom wouldn’t have cared about us skateboarding. The reason I didn’t say what we were doing is that I never do tell her when all I’m going to do is something like skateboarding.”
After getting Ron’s board and Ron getting twenty-five dollars from his mom, they headed for the skate park. They watched the kids doing wild tricks, and Ron, more adventurous than Jason, decided to try a few of them. He did well enough to have a couple guys give him a ‘that’s totally sick, man’ comment of approval.
Jason grinned when Ron sat down next to him, breathing hard. “Why’d they say you were sick, Ron? Did you barf up your breakfast?”
“Dufus. They said I did good on the trick that I did, that what I did was ‘sick’ or in other words ‘fanfuckingtastic’. It’s skater slang, and you know it.”
Jason burst out laughing. “I like ‘fanfuckingtastic’ a lot better than ‘sick’.”
“Well, so do I since I invented ‘fanfuckingtastic’ many years ago.” Ron grinned.
“I don’t think so. I found it in Urban Dictionary. It predates you.”
“Meh.” Ron pulled out his cell and checked the time. “Hey, Jase, it’s almost two. We’d better get moving. I have to drop my board at my house and you have to drop yours at your house and then we have to get back to school for the game.”
“Okay, let’s motivate!”
They got to Ron’s house first. Ron was tired and sweating.
“Hey, I’m gonna stick here and take a shower while you head home with your board and take your own shower. You can stop by for me on your way back.”
“Yeah, I need a shower, too,” Jason agreed. I’ll see you around three fifteen.
After showering and dressing, Ron flopped on his bed and drifted to sleep. His mom woke him.
“Ron, Jase is here. His mom is driving you to school.”
“Oh, that is so cool of her.” He grabbed his jacket and headed through the living room where he slipped into his athletic shoes. He reached for the doorknob when Tammy Cantham put her hand on her son’s shoulder.
“Don’t you want this?” she said, holding out his wallet and keys.
“Oh, shit!” he said in frustration at himself.
“That’s a buck, mister!” Tammy said. She handed Ron his keys and opened his wallet. She pulled out a dollar bill and handed the wallet and its reduced contents to him.
“Sorry, mom. I try to not swear, you know that.”
“Yes, I know, but it’s still a dollar every time you swear and I hear it.”
“You’re right, no problem. See you later!”
“Call if you’re going to be back later than eight o’clock, okay?”
“I should be back by then but I’ll call if somehow we’re delayed.”
He rushed outside and got into the back seat of Betty’s Civic Hybrid.
“Hi, Mrs. Phillips. Thanks for the ride!”
“It’s because Jason fell asleep after his shower and if you two walked it would take a half hour.”
Ron laughed. “You look like you’re going to fall asleep.”
“I’m not! Probably not. Well, maybe.” Then Jason laughed too.
They took the back way into the campus and Betty dropped them off between the faculty parking lot and the art studios. “Have a good time, guys. Call me if you’re going to be later than eight o’clock.”
“Okay, I’ll do that Mom,” Jason replied.
Betty drove off and Ron started laughing. He’d suppressed it until Betty left.
“What’s so funny?”
“What your mom said to you. It’s exactly what my mom said to me, word for word. ‘Call if you’re going to be later than eight o’clock.’ Do you thing they plotted to tell us exactly the same thing in exactly the same words?”
“Could be. Parents are weird that way.”
While they talked they arrived at the entrance to the gym. They showed their student body cards which gave them free admission. The ticket taker was a friend, Ken Garner.
“You, sirs, are hereby granted the right to enter the venue. Enjoy!”
“Ken, you are totally whacked out,” Ron said.
“Not so. I’m just trying to practice my accent for the Shakespeare play we’re going to put on for all of ye good merry gentlemen.”
“What’s the play?”
“Taming of the Shrew.”
“And you play the Shrew, right?” Jason kidded him.
“That’s a girl’s part, Jase.”
“I know that. But in these days of gender equality, why shouldn’t you be able to play the Shrew?”
Ken stood there with a studied expression, staring at Jason, ignoring the kids standing in the line outside the door waiting for their turn to have Ken take their tickets and let them in.
“You know, that’s a damn good idea, Jase. We’ve been trying to figure out a slightly different take on this play, and you nailed it. I’m going to tell Mr. Becker your idea. Thanks! Now get out of the way so these other gracious folk can get into the gym.” Ken grinned at Jason and turned to the next in line.
“Cute, Jase. Now you’re gonna be the hero of the Theater Arts Department. Look, there’s Marcus and there’s room to sit next to him. Let’s take those seats before someone else grabs them.”
Ron hurried over to where Marcus sat in the first row of the bleachers and sat down, holding his hands on the seats next to him.
“Hey, Marcus. You going to write the story for the school paper?”
“Of course I’m going to write the story for the Eagle’s Lair. That’s what I do.”
“Hi Ron.” Marcus watched as Jason sat down on Ron’s hand and all three laughed.
“Keeping my seat warm for me?” Jason asked.
“No. Just trying to cop a feel,” Ron replied.
That comment made Jason laugh and Marcus choke. Several girls were sitting in the next row in back of them, and they laughed at Ron’s comment and started to whisper to each other.
“You gotta watch what you say and where you say it, Ron,” Marcus whispered.
“Why?” Ron asked. “I thought what I said was funny.”
The girl in the back of Marcus leaned forward and said, “And so did I.”
Ron turned around. “Hey, Bev! How you doing?” he asked her. “Marcus, you know Bev Martin, don’t you? And Linda Gayner, she’s sitting next to her.”
Marcus turned and saw the two girls, and he did know them. He’d written an article about them and the girls’ basketball team for the Eagles Lair. “Hi, Bev. Hi, Linda. I didn’t see you come in.”
“We just got here,” Linda replied. “You know anything about how good Cathedral’s team might be?”
“They are middling. They played a number of weaker opponents, mostly smaller Catholic and Christian high schools, during preseason. So their record looked good until they got into league play, and the West Valley League has teams that are a lot stronger. They have seven wins and six losses in league play. They are sort of mired in the middle, around fifth place, and their chances of making the playoffs are zip.”
“So we should blow them away?” Jason asked.
“Not necessarily,” Marcus replied, “Campo beat Hillcrest both games last year and they had a terrible team. I think I remember someone saying that Campo only won three games in league, so two of those wins were at our expense. We need to be careful and avoid being overconfident.”
Bev and Linda started laughing. “You, Marcus Benson, sound just like our coach. In fact, that’s a better pep talk than what Ms. Wong ever gave us,” Bev told him.
“Is there a paid position for the director of pep talks?” Marcus asked.
“I’ll give you Ms. Wong’s phone number and you can ask her,” Linda said. That made her and Bev bust up laughing.
“Uh... based on your reaction, I’ll pass on that.” Marcus responded.
Ron nudged Jason. “Hey, there’s Kev and Steve.” He pointed to the side entrance. “Is there room for two more here?”
“Yeah, just a second.” Jason turned to Marcus. “Can you slide to your left so we can make room for Kevin and Steve over here?”
“Okay. Only thing is I have to leave room for Leshawn.”
“We’ll be squeezed a bit but no problemo.”
They moved about a one-person space to the left, and Kevin and Steve jammed in to the right of Ron. The guys to Ron’s right shoved over to their right to make a more room, and everyone seemed to have enough space. Then Leshawn arrived and took the space to Marcus’ left and got a dirty look from the guy to his left. When Leshawn flexed his shoulders and arms the guy’s eyes got big and he shoved to his left until Leshawn had more room.
“Size matters, doesn’t it, Leshawn.” Marcus whispered to him. Leshawn just laughed at the double entendre.
Jason looked around and saw Jen and Tom about eight rows up in back of where he was sitting. He waved to them, and they waved back.
Steve stood up and shouted, “Grant! Grant! Over here!”
A kid in a Cathedral sweatshirt heading for the bleachers on the visitors’ side turned around and saw Steve. He smiled, turned to the guy next to him and said something, then ran around the end of the court and up to Steve. They hugged then started talking.
“So, how’s Cathedral surviving without me?” Steve asked.
“As if,” Grant replied with a laugh. In a low voice, but loud enough for Jason and Ron to overhear, he asked Steve, “So, how do you like going to public school? Are you out? Is there any homophobia? Are there any other gay kids?”
“A lot, yes, no, yes.” Grant stopped and thought about what he’d asked and what Steve answered, then grinned as he connected the answers to his questions. Steve grabbed Grant’s arm. “Guys, this is a friend of mine from when I went to Cathedral High. Grant, this is Jason Phillips, and next to him in order are Ron Cantham, Marcus Benson, and Leshawn Cross. This guy to my right is Kevin Cross. He and Leshawn are cousins. Some of these guys are what you asked about in your last question, but let’s keep that stuff private, okay?”
“Absolutely. So how does Hillcrest High compare to Cathedral?”
“It’s bigger, friendlier, there are lots of classes that aren’t available at Cathedral like creative writing, computer hardware and software, photography, and web design. There are lot more AP courses. The campus isn’t like a prison. If we want to walk off campus for lunch we can, as long as we carry our ID. And get back in time for our next class, of course. The guidance counselors are really helpful. The cafeteria is better, but I have to admit it still isn’t very good. There are more good looking guys. And girls, too. Our teams are better. I really love going to school here, and feel a lot more comfortable because I know I’m not going to get pounded by some homophobic jerk. The classes are tough, as tough if not tougher than Cathedral. My grades are better; I’m pulling a straight-A average so far.”
“That’s great, Steve. I wish I could go to Hillcrest.” Grant took a deep breath. “Maybe I can finally talk my folks into it letting me switch. Say, are your folks happy with you going to Hillcrest?”
“Absolutely. Why don’t you ask your folks to call my folks? They can tell them why they’re glad I’m going to Hillcrest now. You have my number.”
“Good idea, I’ll....”
He stopped talking because a guy in a Cathedral letterman’s sweater shoved him in the back saying, “Outta my way, faggot!” Grant ended up in Steve’s lap. Kevin stood up and stared at the guy who’d continued walking toward the Timer’s table. However, Leshawn and Marcus had also seen and heard what happened and they stood up. Leshawn shook his head at Marcus and said, “Sit.” He continued to the Timer’s table and facing the guy, blocked him. Leshawn was big and solid and his muscles had muscles, the major reasons why he was so effective on the football field as a freshman. If he was mad he’d get this mean look that just flat-out scared people. The guy was looking at the Timer’s table and not where he was walking until the last second, and then it was way too late for him to keep from running right into Leshawn, which he did. The guy sort of bounced off of Leshawn and ended up on his butt on the floor. He started to bark something at Leshawn but choked it back when he saw Leshawn looming over him, and how huge Leshawn seemed.
“No one calls anyone a faggot on this campus,” Leshawn growled. “That includes you. I suggest you get up and get your butt out of here and go home now.”
“But I’m the statistician for Cathedral High,” the guy squeaked. “I’m supposed to be here.”
“Then you get up off your fat ass and you walk over and you apologize to those two guys and you mean it, understand? And then you never, ever call anyone faggot or anything else offensive, understand? Now, you got two things I told you to understand and I want to know if you understand. DO YOU?”
This was happening right in front of Jason. The guy seemed to be close to peeing his pants. The whole scene delighted Jason. Leshawn sounded just like Marine Drill Sergeants they'd seen in movies.
“Yes, sir,” the guy said to Leshawn, in a very shaky voice. He got up, turned around, and walked the five feet to where Grant, Steve, and Kevin were standing.
“I apologize. That was stupid of me to say what I said to you, Grant. I should know better. I’m sorry for what I said and I’m sorry I pushed you. It doesn’t make any difference to me if someone is gay or not. I hope you’ll forgive me.” Jason was surprised that the guy knew Grant and that he sounded sincere.
“Thanks for the apology. It’s accepted,” Grant said.
“I agree,” Steve added.
The guy turned and started to return to the Timer’s table. When he got close Jason touched his shoulder. The guy stopped and looked at Jason. He looked scared, again.
“Hi, my name is Jason Phillips. What’s your name?”
“Tony. My name is Tony Santos.”
Leshawn and Marcus stood listening to the conversation.
Jason smiled. “Thanks for the apology, Tony. Are you okay?”
“Uh... yeah, maybe, I guess,” Tony replied. He looked at Leshawn. “I really fucked up, didn’t I.”
“Yeah,” Leshawn replied. “But you apologized, and it sounded like you were sincere.”
“I am. I have a couple classes with Grant and I was stupid to say what I said, and then pushing him into the other guy.” Tony looked out on the court where the Cathedral reserves were warming up. “You know, sticking around with jocks I start acting like them. It’s sort of expected of everyone who has anything to do with the team. The coach encourages it.”
“But Tony, Cathedral is a Catholic school. Catholic schools aren’t supposed to be that way.” Jason sounded baffled, and he was. He had a high opinion of Catholic schools.
Tony laughed. “As if that would make a difference. Jocks are jocks. They are part of a culture. If you have anything to do with a team, then you’d better become part of that culture. It they call guys faggots, you call guys faggots. If they shove guys around, you shove guys around. I’ve become part of that culture.” He shook his head. “That’s not me! I’m not that way. But that’s what I’ve become and realizing it makes me feel sick. I know that Grant is gay and he’s out at school. If you’re gay and out at Cathedral High, you’ve got more cojones than the entire football team because you’re going to get shit like you’ve never seen shit in your life. But Grant keeps his head up, he’s got friends, he’s a nice guy. And I called him a faggot and shoved him out of my way. What have I become?” He looked like he was about to cry.
“You’ve become a guy who understands what he did and why that was wrong,” Leshawn said. “You’re okay, Tony. My name’s Leshawn Cross and I play football for Hillcrest High School so I’m a jock. But our jocks aren’t like that. I know because I’m gay and I’m out. So if it can be that way for a gay guy who’s on the football team at a public high school, it should be able to be that way at a Catholic high school. Just my opinion.” They heard the warning horn. “You’d better sit down and get your stat sheets ready to start recording what happens during the game.”
Tony put out his hand, and Leshawn gripped it and they shook hands. “Thanks, Leshawn. I hope I’ll see you around.” He looked at Jason and smiled. “Thanks, Jason.” Then he looked around at the others sitting in the first row. “I can tell that you’re a bunch of cool guys who are really nice guys too. Thanks for calming me down.” He sat down to get ready for the game.
“Wow. What was that?” Ron asked.
Jason looked at Ron. “That was a powerful interaction between two guys. And I think our side showed that we’re on the right side of that interaction. I’m glad we were here. It’s not the sort of thing we’d be able to see very often.”
The teams ran out on the floor, Cathedral first, then Hillcrest, both cheered by their supporters. The Hillcrest team huddled and the starting five went out on the floor for the game to get underway.
“Look who’s on the bench, Jase, Porter Nash.” Marcus pointed to the tall guy at one end of the bench.
“He’s dressed out, so he must have been approved to play for us,” Ron said, having overheard what Marcus told Jason.
“Let me check with Gary Saxton, he’d our statistician,” Marcus said. He stepped down and crouched behind Gary and they had a brief conversation.
Marcus returned and sat down. “Yup, Coach Larsen got the approval from the CIF this morning. Just wait until you see this guy play. He’s on some YouTube vids of games he was in last year, and he’s amazing.”
The game got started and Cathedral scored the first two points on a quick layup. The next fifteen points were scored by Hillcrest, three three-point shots, two jump shots, and two free throws. At the end of the first quarter the score was 15 to 2. The Cathedral stands were very quiet. Cathedral did better in the second quarter, but they never got closer than eight points. At the half the score was 32 to 22.
To start the third quarter Porter Nash started at center. He scored 34 points, blocked four shots, had five assists, and basically kept Cathedral away from the basket the rest of the game. Jason was glad that Doug Lin did well, scoring 23 points. He also had nine steals and, of all things for a guy who isn’t tall, blocked a shot. The final score was a huge win for Hillcrest, 82 to 41.
The Hillcrest crowd went wild. With the addition of Porter to the team, getting into the playoffs appeared to be a slam dunk, and chances to do well in the playoffs were greatly improved. Porter was mobbed by the other players and by the crowd. His smile could be seen from the bleachers both because he was almost a head taller than most of the other players and because his teeth were so white they reflected the gym lights.
After the celebration calmed down and the crowd began leaving, Leshawn and Marcus, Steve and Kevin, and Jason and Ron got together to walk to the Thai restaurant.
Steve saw Grant and invited him to come along.
“I’ll pass, guys. It’s one thing to be the only out gay guy at Cathedral High, but to be consorting with members of the enemy, otherwise known as Hillcrest High students, would be way over the top. But thanks for inviting me. Maybe some other time.”
“Give me a call and let’s chat,” Steve told him.
Grant smiled. “I’d like that very much.”
As they left the gym Jason nudged Steve.
“Grant seems like a nice guy.”
Steve took a deep breath. “Yeah, when I was at Cathedral I thought we might become more than friends, but he said he didn’t want to get involved in a serious relationship. So we just stayed friends. We lost contact when I switched to Hillcrest.”
They got to the Thai restaurant and were seated immediately. They were lucky because a few minutes later people arriving had to wait for a table to come available.
“Has anyone eaten here before?” Steve asked. Jason and Ron raised their hands.
“Okay,” Jason asked, “who’s eaten Thai food before?”
Everyone raised their hand.
“Good. You’re on your own,” Jason said with a grin. “My favorites here are the Gang Kiew Wan, green curry. It’s killer here, and most of the time that’s what I order when I go to a Thai restaurant. It’s sort of like my test meal. Here it’s really, really good. I’ve also had the Pumpkin Curry that’s served in a real pumpkin, and it is really good but it’s more expensive.
“One thing here is that you can ask the waitress how spicy a dish is, and if you want they can adjust the heat.”
“Up. Or down,” Ron added.
“What do you like, Ron?” Leshawn asked.
“I love the Ginger Eggplant. It has shrimp and chicken with the eggplant in a spicy dark sauce. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.”
“How about Pad Thai?” Kevin asked.
“It’s okay, Jason answered. All of the Pad, the noodle dishes, are good. But I want something that’s spicy and has more flavor.”
“Do you usually order soup or an appetizer with your dinner?” Marcus asked.
“My family does if we’re real hungry,” Jason replied. “One way is to order a big bowl of soup and split it so it’s not too expensive.”
“Is rice included?”
“I guess it’s extra because it’s listed separately on the menu. But it’s only a buck and a half each, so that’s not too expensive. I love rice so I eat a lot of it. The last time I ate here with my folks they kept bringing me more rice whenever I asked for it. I’m sure the extra bowls didn’t cost my dad anything extra.”
“How are their desserts?” Leshawn asked.
“There’s quite a few things on the dessert menu, but when I come with my folks we’ve never ordered dessert here. What we do is walk over to the San Francisco Creamery after and get one of their huge ice cream cones. Their ice cream is really good.”
Everyone studied the menu and when the waitress returned they were ready to order. Each guy placed his order and no one ordered soup or an appetizer. Steve was the first to order, and when he said he would like to order rice the waitress told him that jasmine rice was included with entrées at no extra charge, which pleased everyone.
After they finished and paid the bill, which was under twenty dollars each including tax and tip, they headed for the San Francisco Creamery. They placed their orders at the outside take-out window and sat at two tables on the porch eating ice cream, mostly in waffle cones. As usual Jason decided to skip the cone and got his in a big plastic dish. The ice cream was $3.95 for two huge scoops, and it looked like a whole pint of ice cream on each cone and in Jason’s dish.
“You don’t like ice cream cones, Jase?” Kevin asked.
“Trouble with the cones is they’re messy when they start to get soft and the ice cream leaks out of the bottom. I like it better in a dish. It’s easier to eat and it’s not as messy.”
“Jase doesn’t get the flavor of the cone,” Ron argued. “He ignores the traditional way to eat ice cream. He doesn’t realize that America’s prosperity depends on eating ice cream in cones.”
That started a long discussion about the right and wrong way to eat ice cream which moved to a debate about the best and worst ice cream flavors which moved to a discussion about toppings and how toppings could be used in ways, some quite vulgar, never anticipated by the companies that made them. Then they switched to the basketball game and the great play of Porter Nash and Doug Lin, and how much Porter would contribute to the ability of the Hillcrest team to be successful in the playoffs.
Ron noticed that everyone seemed tired, and he was too, so he phoned his mom and asked if she would pick them up and drop them off at their homes, and she agreed. Soon everyone was at home, and as he got into bed Jason realized that he and Ron hadn’t asked Steve or Kevin what movie they saw. Or if the two of them even remembered seeing a movie, a thought that made him grin. Something to ask Steve when they saw him Sunday afternoon.
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