CHAPTER TEN: THE BOY WITH NO NAME
It was the last day of school in June, which for Peter meant, the last day he wouldn’t have Alex hanging around most of the time. Mom had gone to town to pick up a few things for summer, and she was planning a special dinner with a ready cooked, home baked ham. About five o’clock she phones, speaks to Tom and tells him she’s been detained… “at the police station.” She’ll be home by six after talking to the legal aid worker.
Of the three boys only Peter seems particularly concerned, and it’s his idea that they should cook up the ham dinner for when she comes home. In an unusual spirit of cooperation they manage this. Tom sharpens the carving knife and heats the ham in the oven, Peter lays the table getting out the candles and fancy glasses while Alex takes care of the vegetables, only the peas are ruined because he forgot to add water.
Mom is still upset when she arrives home by taxi. Apparently she’d already been under suspicion by the store dicks at Eaton’s and had talked too much, promising to return the Irish lace tablecloth and a number of other things. The legal aid worker told her that her confession had not helped her case. She might get more than a suspended sentence and there’s a possibility the police might get a search warrant. Tom is also alarmed about this. Mom continues her tale of woe, “They even took my finger prints like a common criminal, and said they’d lock me up if I didn’t cooperate. And they even took the two swim suits I bought for Peter and Alex, on special at three ninety eight. I looked everywhere for thje receipt. And oh Peter, I had this lovely jac shirt for you, you would have just adored it, with pockets down here,” she gestures, “and blue stripes on the collar and cuffs. I hope they don’t come snooping around, I don’t think they will, but maybe we should put some things away, maybe behind the furnace. That would do for now but they might get mildew if we left them.”
Mom is delighted by the dinner, she breaks into tears when the boys bring it in and serve it. Tom from somewhere produces a large bottle of champagne, some French stuff called Mumm’s, which refills the liqueur glasses many times. Peter thinks It’s not bad, but they’ve cheated with that dimple on the bottom of the bottle and I figure the Japanese could do a lot better if they wanted to. Alex makes a quick trip to the corner store, and he and Peter make up some strawberry ice cream with chocolate syrup and fresh cherries for dessert by candlelight. Afterwards Tom retires to the workshop to work on his old Harley, Alex goes off with friends to some end of term party, and Mom and Peter settle down to watch TV on the old sixteen inch black and white set.
“Oh Peter, that was such a lovely dinner, Tom told me it was your idea. You don’t know what I’ve been through. And it’s all because I try to be a good mother. I ask you, is that fair?” Mom begins to cry again and Peter makes an attempt to comfort her. “Oh Peter, you’re so good to me. I sometimes think you’re all I’ve got.”
“We’ll OK Mom.”
“Yes, I know we’ll make it through, but it’s going to be difficult to make ends meet and I don’t know when we’ll be able to afford a nice TV again, and all the other little things we’re used to. And I shan’t be able to give you as much anymore, Peter. We’ll just have to do the best we can.”
Peter’s feeling a bit more respect for legalities as a result. Like there’s all these laws and regulations I never thought about. I’m glad I don’t smoke… or drive a car, and you got to wear safety belts by law. And on motorbikes you got to wear helmets, and in sports too, not that I care, and they’re even talking about them for cyclists. I don’t know, but with all these pedestrians getting killed I guess we’ll have to wear them too pretty soon. It would be sort of neat if everybody wore helmets all the time, the ones with the dark plastic shields. You could wander around and nobody’d know who you are. You wouldn’t need to use your personality all the time. I bet robbers would like it too. Then they’d start making you wear identity numbers on your helmets, but you could sell kits to change the numbers and make lots of money. Laws are like the tourist industry, they create jobs. Like I might want a job sometime although I think I’d try other ways of making money first. I used to figure some people got jobs and some didn’t, like everybody can’t be lucky.
I was talking to that older guy you see at the 7-Eleven, the one Ronnie says is a “real queer”. He asked me if I wanted a job, and I said, “Doing what?”, and he said “Gardening”, and I said “Gardening what?”, like I know he’s a real queer. He says “Pot”. I told him it was illegal and he said he already knew that, said he got fired from his job as a teacher because of it. But he said the only reason it was illegal was because of the jobs. He said there’s all these police and judges and guards, and especially lawyers who’d lose their jobs. And the politicians didn’t want a lot of lawyers out of work, “Dangerous”, he said, so they changed their minds about legalizing it. And he said all the jobs on the other side would go too, the dealers and the traffickers and they’d end up on welfare. Like keeping marijuana illegal is the only way the government can create jobs for them. I told him, he’s sort of a meek guy, that that was “Bullshit”, he’d already bought me a couple of games. And then he was a real smartass and said, “There are geraniums in the pot.” And he told me to get a haircut.
But I figure for laws to really create jobs somebody has to break them too. Suddenly Peter feels a new respect for his mom’s role in the system. With her shopping expeditions she was part of that mystical process of job creation. It’s like what’ll happen with helmet identity numbers… Like why doesn’t the government just keep making laws until everybody has a job? Like people are always asking them to. I mean there’s all these all these things you’re supposed to be against, and some of them they haven’t got laws for yet. And if they can make helmets compulsory why not brassieres, and I could get a job as an inspector… Or I know what would be a smart move: CIGARETTES! A flash of sadistic glee radiates through Peter. And it’s old people who smoke them most. Like you should be able to stop anyone over forty, throw them up against a wall and frisk them. I’d check their fingers and false teeth for stains. And things like lighters and sterling silver cigarette cases would be paraphernalia, and we could confiscate them when we bust them. Old people wouldn’t be very cool and I bet they’d be easy to bust, you could probably catch some smoking right on the street. But it would be more fun for them to smoke because it would be illegal. I bet things are pretty dull for a lot of them right now. And with cigarettes we KNOW they are bad. Peter still doesn’t think it’s right to smoke marijuana even if it does create jobs, although now he can see altruistic reasons for doing so. He knows it’s harmless although it destroys the mind. And just think if they made tobacco illegal and people started growing it. Think of all the new kinds you’d have. There’d be “Wacky Baccy”, “Turk sticks”, “Constantinople Gold” and “Virginica hybrid”. Pretty soon they’d have some real potent stuff, one puff and that’s enough. Might even cut down on cancer that way because you’d smoke less.
Peter is only just getting acclimatized to relative poverty after having had sixty dollars, which incidentally lasts into the third day. The prospect of reduced maternal funding bodes ill. However at the same time Peter is aware that he now knows how he can make money. And I could even give some to Mom, maybe. I could tell her I found it… well? Or won it in a poker game, but she knows the rules and I don’t. Maybe I could tell her I stole it! She’d believe THAT, I’d tell her I stole it from Eaton’s, that would make her happy. And I wouldn’t mind trying out Bill’s computer sometime, he says he knows how to do a lot of things on it. And Mom could get a nice TV again, only I’d have to do those sex things with Bill, but it wouldn’t be immoral if it was for good. Maybe one time I could tie him up and not stop beating him, and see if I can get him over that threshold. Maybe I shouldn’t let him play with himself while I do it. Like in the pictures I’ve seen they haven’t been allowed to do that. Maybe it spoils it? And no teddy bear either. Like if I got Bill into ecstasy maybe held give me a hundred dollars. I’d have to beat his front side, which would be OK, so I could see the expression on his face change as he passes over the threshold. Or maybe, like in that letter in that old Penthouse, where this guy gets his wife to ride him like a horse and whips him, only I wouldn’t want to wear high heels. And I really think you need something better than an old school strap, maybe a buggy whip like you see in the old westerns on TV, and I could wear a Stetson and cowboy boots. Spurs would be fun. Like there’s all sorts of things you could do to people, and if they like it, you wouldn’t need slaves. But then it might be a bit different if you were REALLY doing some things to people. And suppose they were doing it to you, but why would you want that? I mean like twenty bucks extra. Bill said after that I did a good job, only I got to stop when he says.
Peter’s scroungings became pretty meager after Mom’s bust, which doesn’t allow him much time at the 7-Eleven. And he doesn’t see Bill either, not that he was really looking for him. But there’s nothing to do without money, and for the lack of anything better Peter begins taking long walks about the city, avoiding the tough neighbourhoods including his own as much as possible. He’s surprised how much there was he hadn’t seen before.
He especially likes walking up into the newer, classy subdivisions to the north and west and looking at the houses and cars of what to him are rich people. Occasionally he wanders into the forested hills beyond, along old logging roads and looks at things, living things, which Eddie sparked his interest in. One time he watches a raccoon playing and washing itself in a stream and another time he finds a pond with frogs and newts in an old sand pit. He looks closely down into the moss and grasses and discovers miniature mushrooms half an inch high and he studies the patterns within the lichens on the rocks. It’s almost as if Eddie is showing him. He finds an old tree trunk that has rotted to its shell and with one kick he shatters it and is amazed, not at his Superman feat, but that he had destroyed a nest of the ants. He watches them scurry away and feels sorry for what he has done. He tries walking quietly to sneak up on things, and other times he plays games with himself pretending he’s a hunter or a commando, and dashing and hiding and sometimes crawling along the ground. He’s never played such games with other boys.
After Peter runs down the long even slopes of the subdivision streets. He finds he likes running down hills, it isn’t like a game or sport, and he doesn’t think of it as exercise, which he’s always being told he needs. It’s like flying, and he imagines his head is an airplane or a cruise missile, and he looks down at the country he’s flying over. Other times he’s a robot, and his brain is the computer giving orders to different parts of his body, but it usually doesn’t work too well because the computer can’t keep ahead of the mechanical parts. It’s best on straight smooth stretches where he can close his eyes for a few seconds and pretend he’s on automatic pilot. Peter becomes more aware of his body and realizes it’s becoming perceptibly stronger. He becomes adjusted to the jolts that shake his body on the steep downhills and the breathless gasping of his lungs at the end. He even begins pushing himself running faster and longer, but he won’t run uphill, that would be stupid.
And then one day at the farthest end of a brand new subdivision road which had been blasted into the slopes was the foot of what seems to Peter to be a mountain. He climbs up the rocky face which is interspersed with gnarly firs and a few scrub oaks. After ten minutes he reaches a flatter area, about an acre of bare rock, grass and moss with scattered bushes. He turns around to admire the view.
From the mossy bluff on the hill Peter can see most of the city and the harbour and sea beyond. And there’s the hospital, he can even pick out the window in the Children’s Ward where he had first noticed the place he knows he’s standing in, the golden garden. It becomes his favourite, and it seems his own private place, not that he doesn’t see others up there occasionally. If he has money he picks up a chocolate bar and maybe a Pepsi in the subdivision store below, and as the Summer advances there are blueberries and huckleberries in the logged over ravine to the north. He finds an old overgrown logging road which connects to a still used road which he hears leads to an old ghost town where they used to mine gold twenty miles back in the hills. And there’s another way down from the bluff across the lower hill to the south, along a little tumbling stream and into another subdivision. This becomes his secret way to come and go, and he can suddenly emerge from the forest into the back of the open bluff. Here there are scattered bushes, and places where the moss is deep and soft to lie on when it isn’t wet. Peter likes to take his shirt and shoes off and roll and do somersaults, which he’d only done before in gym classes. And then he lies in the sun, listening to the buzzing of insects and sometimes he sees an eagle, or a hawk, he isn’t sure, circling overhead. Later he climbs down the bluff, runs the slopes and walks home.
One midsummer day, partly to avoid the heat, Peter takes his secret route up to the bluff. He walks through the little pools and climbs the trickling waterfalls so bloodhounds can’t follow him and he creeps low, darting, from bush to bush, so that the Iranian sentries can’t see him, and sneaks into the open bluff. There in his favourite mossy sunning spot is another boy, perhaps a year or two older, lying naked apparently asleep.
His first flash is that it’s Eddie, the colouring’s the same, but this boy has an athlete’s body and a different face. Peter seldom thinks that much about Eddie at home, he hardly uses the chess set, but he does on his walks, and especially up here on the bluff he’d seen so clearly that day. It’s as if here would be the most likely place to find him. His surprise and disappointment are overcome by curiosity. He approaches, treading quietly, and stops. After a minute he begins to feel awkward, just standing there staring, and he notices the low bushy outcrop near the boy. He finds a tunnel in the bushes from behind and crawls to a well screened vantage, point about twelve feet from the boy and makes himself as comfortable as he can lying on his stomach. He opens the large box of Smarties he brought for a snack, and sets it in front of him to nibble from.
Peter’s eyes float admiringly over the handsome body absorbing the hirsute details and the triumphant bush sprouting from his groin. The noble face is framed by an extravagant head of red, curl tangled hair a shade brighter than his lower bush. The military jaw, the sensuous lips, the expressive eyebrows, Peter’s sure that they are, in short a face that could enlist men to their deaths or help sell a million albums, it embodies all the qualities of youth that his culture teaches him to admire. The boy doesn’t seem quite real to Peter, not like a person you have to deal with and maybe be careful of. He appears as a demigod, perfect and beautiful. Peter stares and munches Smarties.
Still he does resemble Eddie and Peter pretends that it is him, asleep or in some beautiful death. Maybe Eddie will look more like this when he’s resurrected, he said that bodies become healthy, and he said Judgment Day could sneak up anytime. But that’s OK if you’re a Christian, but being a Christian is not as easy as I thought. Eddie said there’s all sorts of things you shouldn’t do. I can understand not stealing and fighting, and even little things like not swearing, I usually forget to anyway, but there sure are a lot of them, and like we never talked about it but you probably can’t even play with yourself. But the important thing is what you believe, and Eddie made that sound even harder. But isn’t believing things easy? You just do… See? I just believed I’ll be famous some day. You believe, you got faith. I can’t remember exactly what you’re supposed to believe, there’re a lot of details which are probably important, but it’s mainly Jesus dying to save us from our sins. I guess I should have gone to the Bible study group. And I wish he were Eddie and I’d wake him up and off we’d go.
The boy’s eyes open momentarily, they’re a light blue like a hazy sky, and he shifts his position slightly. Peter notices the changing highlights on his sweat glistened skin and the gentle heavings from his breathing. The boy is alive and real now. A minute later he opens his eyes again and begins to stir. Peter feels he should leave, he tries crawling backwards but his cuff gets caught, and there are brambles arching overhead. Maybe the boy will leave soon anyway. Peter’s not that uncomfortable and decides to wait. Then slowly and intermittently the boy begins caressing his genitals, but not like he’s jacking off or anything. Peter’s hoping for a free show and pops another Smartie. But then the boy quite abruptly stands up and squinting from the sun walks over to the bushy outcrop and pees.
Peter tries to stay still and quiet as the boy playfully wiggling his stream splashes him all over and then. “MY SMARTIES”, Peter makes a grab to save them.
“WHAT?” the startled boy exclaims. He retreats to his clothes, grabbing his jeans to hold in front of him. And then seeing Peter he points his finger at him, “You. What are you doing? Some little kid queer snooping around?“
Peter wants to run, he’s scared. He stands up entangling his sleeve in the brambles, he tries to free himself without making it obvious he’s caught. “I’m sorry.” he blurts, he doesn’t say things like that very often.
The boy’s somewhat appeased. “Well you got no right to go around like a peeping tom… And I don’t like people staring we at me.”
Peter feels less threatened. “I’m sorry.” he repeats, it had worked the first time. “And besides you peed all over me and my Smarties too.”
“You were eating Smarties?” The boy starts to dress.
“Well I brought them for lunch. Like I come here lots of times and lie in the sun, only I keep my pants on.”
“There’s nothing wrong in nude sunbathing, and besides, you got something to hide?”
“I’m no queer if that’s what you’re thinking.” Peter’s almost disentangled himself. “I got rights too and I was just playing a game and I found you here in My spot.”
“Your spot? My dad owns this land.” The boy looks Peter over .
“Well I come here a lot.” Peter feels threatened again and decides to dash before the boy gets the rest of his clothes on. but he catches his arm on a thorn, droplets of blood form along a five inch scratch. “OW” he screeches, but even after remembering himself he has difficulty acting brave.
“What are you running for? You scared?”
“I wasn’t running.” Peter decides.
The boy comes over, takes his arm and examines it. “What’s the matter with you? That’s just a scratch.” he holds Peter’s arm in front of his eyes. “You’re not going to bawl over that?”
“Well it hurts.” and then a bit sheepishly, “but it’s OK now.” Peter realizes it’s not hurting much anyway and the bleeding’s stopped.
“Just put some antiseptic on it when you get home… You may not even need that.” He gives Peter back his arm. “Have a good day.”
Peter doesn’t want the boy to leave, he wants to impress him, to ingratiate himself, to show that he’s brave and not a sissy, and maybe… a friend. “Look at this, see where I fell? It just made me swear.” The scab from his bicycle fall is gone but he shows the boy the outline of where it used to be.
“You want to see something? Look at this.” he turns his left side towards Peter and indicates a long but not ugly scar across his shoulder and upper arm. “A cable snapped at my old man’s gyppo rig, broke my arm and shoulder blade, and it was an hour before we got to a doctor.”
Peter’s impressed. The boy seems so brave about it. “Wow. That must have hurt.”
“Yeah, and I was screaming a lot of the time, and I don’t remember too much about it.” Peter had hoped for more details but is relieved in his stomach.
Peter is still awed and wants the boy to like him but he’s off to such a bad start, he babbles desperately. “I was just scared, I mean surprised back then, because I didn’t know and… I thought maybe, you know, and… Like I’ve had all sorts of things happen and not cried… Like the measles and my tonsils out and cancer, only it wasn’t serious, and once my brother hit me twice.”
“Really?” The sarcasm is obvious.
“Yeah, and I’ve stubbed my toe lots of times.”
“I don’t know who you are kid, but you’re fucked.”
“Well I’m Peter…” He thinks about running again, more from humiliation than fear, but the boy’s already got his Adidas on. “And I’m not really a sissy.”
“Well I don’t know kid… And I don’t really care.”
Suddenly nothing is more important to Peter than that the boy believe him, “I’ll prove it!”
“Because I don’t want you thinking I’m a queer or sissy or anything like that.”
“Really? And how are you going to do that?”
Peter has already started thinking about the same question. The boy is much too strong to try to fight and Peter feels quite the opposite towards him. There are no dangerous dragons around that he could slay, and that tall snag looks a bit too risky to climb, even if he could. His mind races through heroic possibilities for proof. Chop off a finger? Peter compromises. “You can punch me on the shoulder as hard as you want… with your left hand.”
“I am left handed.” Peter’s not sure if the boy is teasing or not. However the boy winds up as if he’s going to punch hard and swings, stopping an inch short of where Peter’s shoulder had been before he backed away. “Kid, You’re fucked.”
“I just wasn’t ready, I won’t move this time.”
“Look Kid, I’m not going to hit you.”
“But I want you to.” Peter pleads.
“I’m Peter and I really want you to hit me.” He leans forward, putting himself closer. “I’m ready.”
Amused but exasperated the boy gives Peter a hard, sharp jab on the shoulder. He survives the initial split second impact and then deliberately plays with experiencing the actual sensations of pain. A sore warmth radiates out and begins to cool. Peter is almost disappointed. The boy looks at him curiously. Peter adjusts his expression. “Again!” He makes it sound like a command. The boy good naturedly complies. It’s better… or worse this time, anyway it hurts more. It’s only his body he thinks and his mind insists, “Once more.”
“You’re strange.” The third is token punch.
“I’m not a sissy, see?”
“My name’s Peter.” Peter interjects.
“OK Peter, I don’t know anything about you, but you got some strange hangups.”
“I didn’t want you thinking I’m a sissy that’s all. And you’re welcome to use my spot here.”
“Well thanks kid… Peter… I’m going to head off.”
“You come here often?” Peter inquires as he leaves.
“Not very… See you.”
Peter goes almost daily to the bluff, hoping, looking for the boy whose name he does not know. He feels stupid about not knowing his name, but then in a way it makes the boy more exotic, more exciting. He feels the boy is his friend. He waits for him, he looks down over the edge of the bluff to see if he’s coming, he buys an extra chocolate bar just in case and saves it until he leaves. And Peter pretends that he comes, and they talk and play games. They chase each other and wrestle in the moss and play war games, You’re dead and they laugh and eat barbecued flavour chips and Peter tells him all about his inventions, only he’s not zapping cities anymore, just some aliens, and he’s figured out a new way to defeat the sinister Silicon Civilization of Evilon, and they all become Christians.
And later they lie side by side in the sun. Peter takes off all his clothes and puts them in a neat pile like the boy did. He pretends that if he reached over he could touch him. And sometimes he imagines he does. He gently awakens the boy, well not with kisses, but by doing nice things to his body. And Peter’s been taught a bit about that. The boy takes him in his arms and gives him pleasure too, and they leave together, going forth with Peter loyally following and do BRAVE THINGS. And they’re ’buddies’! But it’s not a dream with sexual details although it’s on it’s way to love.
And sometimes he pretends it’s Eddie, not as thin as he was, and he catches him up on what has been happening, not too much, the New Christian Siliconian Saga, and all the new things he’s learnt about plants and stuff, right up on the hill, right here.
And his running is really getting better, he can feel more muscles in his legs, and he tries to remember to masturbate everyday.
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