Events in this chapter are based in events found in A Funny Thing Happened... and I strongly encourage you to read them in order.
“Boom!” one of the guys standing next to me said as the receiver was laid out by the corner back.
“Uh, we're offense?” I reminded him. “Shouldn't we be rooting for our own guy?”
“Doesn't mean you can't appreciate a good player,” he said, turning a wide grin to me. “He's got a feel for the game. A natural talent. He sits out there like a bird, hunting, then he swoops in and boom!”
“Yeah.” I said absently.
Football camp was a fun, though exhausting, experience and it was made better by Sean being here with me. We'd gotten broken up into small groups, today and were running full contact drills. I watched as the ball was hiked and the quarterback started to look around, after giving a play action fake to the running back. I turned and looked at 'Boomer', as the guys called him, and watched his movement for the rest of the play.
The other guy was right, he did have quick, birdlike movements as far as his head went. He seemed to be scanning and assessing the way the offense unfolded and trying to figure out where he'd be most effective as a defender. The play went dead and my group rotated in on offense. Boomer's group would be out there for a few more snaps, since they liked for us not to get used to playing any one set of guys, so I'd have another crack at him.
I frowned as I pulled my helmet on. I was Oh for everything against this guy. If he was defending me, I just couldn't get past him. The first play was a running play and the 'back got stacked up on the line. The second play, my number was called. It was a simple slant, but when I got there, Boomer would be the defender. I broke from the line at the snap, shook my defender at the line, who dropped into a zone, and I headed for my spot. The ball was pretty well thrown, I couldn't have asked for much more, and I brought it in easily.
I turned and set my feet to drive me forward, Boomer in front of me and two defenders in the periphery, too far away to catch me. I drove toward Boomer, intending to juke him. I did a stutter step, then pulled hard right – and it was like he'd read my mind. Boom, the fucker.
“Shit!” I said and pounded the dirt. Boomer was standing over me, his hand stretched out to help me up. I took it and got back on my feet. Without a word, he trotted off the field as his defensive unit rotated off.
“God, I'm tired,” Sean said, taking a seat next to me at dinner.
“Yeah. I'm beat and sore,” he said while stifling a yawn. “You?”
“Fucking Boomer planted me twice,” I groaned.
“Hah, your nemesis. You'll get him.”
“Yeah. You know, I've made a decision.”
“I'm going to ask Emily out when we get back.”
“Yeah? So that's what's been on your mind, lately.”
I glanced at him guiltily, “Yeah.”
After dinner there was strategy class, where offenses and defenses reviewed what they'd seen on the field that day. By the time we got to our bunk room it was already eight. There were eight to a room, but it was all made worse by the two big guys over on the right. It had been just two days since we arrived and they both stunk like a rotting carcass.
“Newman! Simpson! Did you guys miss showers tonight?” I wish I'd been the guy to say it, but it actually came from the guy two bunks over, who was getting a stronger dose than I was.
“Fuck no,” one of them rumbled. “You never shower in training camp, it's bad luck. No shaving, either.”
“You should shave your back, swamp ass,” the guy retorted. “Jesus, you guys smell like something died over there.”
“It helps on the line,” the other said. “It's part of our weaponry.”
“You try to kill them with stink?” I asked, uncertainly.
“Yep,” one said, confidently.
“That has to be the most dumb ass thing I ever heard.” I glanced at Sean, surprised he jumped in. “You know, they can just put something under their nose like cologne or aftershave, right? Then the only people you punish are us.”
We did get to sleep, eventually, because we were so tired – but this smelly, not showering thing couldn't go on. I couldn't go more than a day without feeling slimy. When I was a kid, I'd fight to not have to shower. Now, I'd do it twice a day, if I could.
The next two days were more of the same. Boomer planted me in the dirt every time he defended me and the stink brothers got a little worse each night. I think even the other linemen were starting to avoid them. Not being able to slide past Boomer or even the wretched smell in our bunk room wasn't my biggest worry, though. No, my problem was Sean, or more specifically, the change he'd wrought in me. Before, keeping things that I'd done to myself had been a piece of cake. Now? I usually told him everything – and it was fun. I liked having someone who'd appreciate and guard my secrets and exploits – a confidante. But now I'd run into the first thing I hadn't told him, couldn't tell him.
Now, granted, some things are private, depending on who you are. People like Robin don't seem to blush about much. People like Kale look like a whitehead being squeezed. I think I fall somewhere between them, and it depended more on how much trouble I might get into more than how embarrassing it might be. All that changed recently when I'd lost a little control and had an unexpectedly satisfying blow job exchange with Asher Romanski, a guy Sean and I were both attracted to but, we'd agreed he was off limits. Now, the first time I'd gotten a blow job, I felt pretty crappy after. This time, I was a little freaked because I liked it. But, I'd come to terms with it – and would even welcome a round two with Ash, but things had crystallized recently with Emily and I had the strong feeling that the time to ask her out was now. Even though I'd liked what Ash and I did, I knew that wasn't where I wanted to be, long term.
But, it was eating me up, a little at a time that I was keeping this back from Sean. I mean, if Emily had blown me, I'd have probably come home that night and described it all. But this? I'd broken our rule. There was also the matter of the little bit of weirdness with Ash, afterward. I'd noticed him looking at me more often and a kind of sad expression that he fixed on me. It hit me, all of a sudden, how right Sean had been to say we shouldn't mess around with him. He had feelings for me and I'd just fanned them with no intention of reciprocating.
So this is what was on my mind after dinner that night at camp. We were in a large room reviewing film of what we'd done that day with our squads and it was humid and miserable. They had large fans set up and were trying to circulate the air, but it was awful. At last, it came to an end and we trudged back to our room. Sean and I had showered before dinner, but I knew I had a thin sheen of sweat on me just from the weather.
When we arrived, we discovered we had a new roommate. He was about my height and had a confident stance; maybe even a little cocky. He had brown hair and wore a tank top that showed off his developing arms and made his shoulders look wider than they were; with the contrast between his golden tanned skin and his black tank.
“What are you doing here?” one of the guys asked. “This is an offensive bunk room.”
“Yeah, I can tell. Do you guys know where the showers are?” the new guy replied, his voice carrying a slow drawl to it that was kind of pleasant on the ear.
“Unlucky to shower in camp. Still doesn't explain why you're here.”
He smiled thinly. “I'm a spy. But, now that we know why you stink so much, I guess I can go back.”
“Boomer?” I asked suddenly.
The guy didn't respond, didn't even look at me. He was still looking at Stinky and Smelly, waiting for a retort to his come back. Knowing their limited repertoire I stepped closer to our new roomie and broke his line of sight.
His gaze settled on me and and a look of confusion appeared. “What?”
“You're that corner back they call 'Boomer'. You've been planting me in the dirt since we got here.”
He looked at me a little closer and tilted his head. “Boomer, huh? Why did they tag me with that?”
I shrugged, as if it should be obvious. “Someone catches the ball, you hit them – boom.”
“Jamie Kirkwood,” I said, putting my hand out. “You gotta tell me what I'm doing wrong.”
He quirked his lips in amusement and shook my hand. “Boomer sounds better than my real name. My last name is Bennett, though.”
“Pleasure. Oh, uh,” I pointed to Sean, who was laying on his cot and watching the exchange with interest. “That's my brother, Sean.”
Boomer nodded at Sean, who shot him a half-assed salute.
“So, Boomer, seriously – what am I doing wrong?”
“I don't know – you're getting tackled?” he said with a smirk and a shrug of his shoulders. “Jesus, that stink! How do you guys sleep with that?”
“You just close your eyes and hope it kills you quick,” one of the guys mumbled.
Boomer looked around and then said, “I have an idea. Kirkwood? Little help?”
“I'm going to put an end to the smell,” he said.
“Me too!” Sean said, sitting up.
We filed out of the room, staying in the shadows between buildings because being out after lights out was a no-no, and it was almost time. They'd be doing bed checks. Plus, since Boomer was leading us carefully, I figured whatever we were doing wasn't exactly kosher. I liked him instantly.
In minutes we were in one of the large rooms where we'd reviewed tape and been mentally coached versus the on-the-field work. Boomer slipped over to the wall and unplugged one of the large floor fans and tilted it back on its wheels, the heavy base making the whole thing awkward. I quickly slipped over to help with the weight and Sean grabbed the cord and scouted the way back for us. We were stealing a fan – I felt like we were starting a great friendship, here, based on theft.
We had a couple scary moments, but we were soon back in the room.
“You missed first check, man,” one of the guys said. “We told 'em you was hitting the head.”
We stuffed the fan in a corner, behind a bunk bed, and switched out the lights.
“What about the damn fan?” the guy asked in the dark.
“Dude. If they come back for bed check, which they will, they'll see it. Wait so we don't lose the fan first night, okay?” I said. Jesus, use a little thought! Maybe ten minutes later there were noises outside and two guys stepped in with shielded flashlights to see that we were in bed. Satisfied, they headed out. There was a rustling of sheets and Sean crept to the doorway and watched them as they disappeared.
Sean gave them a thumbs up and we set up the fan, facing the stink brothers, and plugged it in. In moments, the fan had the air in the room moving and the stench heading out the window.
“Dude, you are a genius!” I exulted, high fiving Boomer.
“Well, it'll work until they realize we have a fan, anyway,” he said. Happy, we settled in and got some sleep, the rhythm of the fan lulling us. In the morning we decided to try hiding the fan behind a bed, just to see how long we could get away with it.
The day, though, was more of the same. Breakfast, some study, then out on the field running drills. After lunch we got down to running plays and, like clockwork, Boomer planted me.
“God damn it!” I said, slamming my hand to the ground. “I'm not a fucking tree, Boomer!”
He held a hand down to me to lift me up, which I took, growling as I did. He patted my shoulder and headed back to his unit. After dinner we had more study and then, finally, the day was done.
With Boomer in our bunk room, I felt a little distracted from my Sean problem, for which I was grateful. He wasn't a very forthcoming guy, though, and besides our first act of theft together – which I'd felt was a bonding moment – we hadn't talked much. He wasn't rude, exactly, just...closed off.
It wasn't until almost a week later that things escalated as our fan was discovered. I explained to the staff how the sewer twins kind of forced our hand, and they were spoken to. It didn't help, but they were spoken to. We endured a night of the stench, but the following night, I had a plan.
We waited until they fell asleep and then I told Sean and Boomer to go fill their water bottles. I waited impatiently for them to return, but they finally did. I uncapped the detergent mom had packed 'just in case' and poured it on their clothes and their sleeping forms. I then coated everything with water.
“What the fuck?” one of them grumbled. We three jumped into our beds, trying not to laugh, as smelly and smellier started asking what was going on. Why were they wet? Had one of them wet the bed? What was that smell?
“It was that defensive fuck!” one rumbled as his shadow rose up in the darkness. “He can't take the smell of hard work, faggots never can.” Boomer was up quick, and Sean and I flanked him as the two smelly lineman glowered.
“You wouldn't be so quick to defend him if you knew why he was here,” one of them rumbled.
“I'm guessing he's here to play football and not,” Sean broke off his statement to cough, “Jesus! Are you not brushing your teeth either?”
“That's nothing,” I said, “You should see the toe-rot.”
“What the fuck is all the noise?” one of the other guys asked, sleepily.
“These two are defending a fag who got caught peeking at his roommates.”
The line hung there in the darkness, ominous. I turned to Boomer. “Was it me? It was me.”
“What?” he asked, confused.
“You were looking at me, weren't you?”
“Uh, no,” Boomer replied, voice dripping sarcasm. “You weren't in my old bunk room.”
“Oh. Well, you look at me now, right?” I said, brightly.
“No!” Boomer said, starting to laugh.
“Why the fuck not?” I demanded. “I'm a good looking piece of ass!”
“What are you...” Boomer got no farther as he broke down laughing. The stink brothers seemed to be unsure of what to do, since their gambit to turn us against each other had failed.
“Oh, I get it,” I said, looking at them, “You're jelly. I can sympathize, but you know what, guys? I smell better, look better and I'm smarter than you are.”
“The fuck you talking about?”
“I've got all the qualities a guy like Boomer would look for. Maybe if you showered, he'd notice something besides that solid wall of funk coming off you.”
“Kirkwood, I'm not looking at you,” Boomer stated firmly.
“I think you are,” I said, sniffing. Sean was apoplectic with laughter, pressing his face into his pillow. The other guys eventually told us to shut up and go back to bed, but the sewer twins gave us looks that promised revenge.
The next morning, Boomer sat with us at breakfast. He was studying me and I smirked at him. “See? You are looking at me.”
“Just to try and figure you out. I don't get it though.”
“What's not to get?” I asked, giving my plate some attention.
“You seem like a vapid, self-interested, straight boy. Why the fuck would you stick up for me?”
My face fell and I replied indignantly, “I'm not vapid! Hey,” I said, turning to Sean, “What does vapid mean, anyway?”
“Sort of dull and stupid, I think,” he replied. I turned back to Boomer.
“Nope, not dull, not stupid.”
“Okay, why, then?” he asked.
“Why what?” I asked, playing stupid.
He let out an exasperated sigh. “Why did you stick up for me with the rancid duo?”
“Oh. Well, seemed like the right thing to do, right, Sean?”
Sean looked over at Boomer. “We have gay brothers. In general we like to limit who we dislike to if they are an asshole or not.”
“There you have it.”
Boomer looked at each of us in turn. “So, this means you think I'm not an asshole? Is that about the size of it?”
“Well, let's not get carried away,” I said and put my fork down. “I still think you're a fucker for not telling me what I'm doing wrong.”
Boomer's face took on a speculative appearance. He took more than a minute to look at me and Sean, sizing us up. He leaned forward, placing his forearms on the table, breakfast forgotten.
“You guys ever hear of a guy named Alec Kutsenko?”
I glanced at Sean and then back at Boomer. “Um, duh?”
“Don't be smart, how do I know where you guys are even from?”
“Oh, duh,” I said, smacking my head. “Sorry, we're from Sanitaria Springs. How about you?”
“I am, too,” he said. “I go to St. Mary Ignatius over in Binghamton, though. I'm supposed to be here to bond with the team,” he said with a snort.
“Oh. Bonded too well?” I asked.
“Not really. Just got caught appreciating a teammate,” he said with a sigh. “Anyway, Alec is the reason I play football. It's why I'm a corner back. I was in grade school when he came out, but I realized I had a name for who I was, once he did. Anyway,” he said, shaking his head, “my point is, Alec said one thing that always stuck with me, as far as football went. The local paper interviewed him and asked how he did so well, like, what his secret was. He told them, it's in the small things. If you can make the small things work, the bigger things come with it.”
“I don't get it,” I replied.
Boomer fixed me with a look. “You always, always juke right. Once I realized that, I knew where I had to be to stop you. The little things, man,” he said and pulled his plate back in front of him and lapsed into silence.
“Jesus,” I muttered. “Are you kidding? I do the same thing every time?”
“No. You move your feet and hips really well, it's just that none of it matters because I know where you'll end up.”
Sean snorted in laughter and I looked at him with a frown. “What are you laughing at?”
“He said you move your hips well. I guess he has been looking,” he chortled.
“Well of course he has. It's expected.” I chuckled.
“You are really full of yourself,” Boomer said, shaking his head.
“Well, a little,” I conceded. “But I have some evidence to back that up. See, our buddy Asher? He's got this mega-crush on my brother, here.”
“Really?” Boomer asked.
“Hey, you don't have to look so surprised,” Sean snorted.
“No, I mean...I don't know, I guess I'm just surprised you're cool about it is all.”
“Why wouldn't we be?” I asked. “Look, I've grown up with gay guys all around me. You know what's different about them? They like guys. That's it!”
“Well,” Sean said, “There is the agenda.”
“What?” I asked, frowning. “What agenda?”
“Didn't Kale tell you? He said it's really important when you're just starting out. For every guy you convert, you get a small appliance.”
“What? Like a microwave?”
“Yeah. Or a toaster oven.”
“Once of those ones that can do bagels would be awesome!” I enthused.
“Um, I think he's saying you have to convert to get one,” Boomer said, snickering.
“Eh, it was a near thing, let me tell you!” I said, leaning back in my chair and warming to tell a good story. Chairs started to shift as people stood from breakfast – our first sessions were getting ready to start. “I'll tell you later, though.”
We went through our morning classes and then hit the field, again. As I raced off the line of scrimmage I moved into my slot and caught the ball – a wobbly pass that got tipped at the line. I turned and planted my feet, squaring off with Boomer. I'd thought about this and, now that he'd told me, he'd likely expect me to go left. So, I stuck with my routine and went right. Boomer stuck with his routine and planted me in the dirt.
“Fuck!” I grumbled. Boomer held his hand out and I accepted it.
“You still went right,” he said, lingering while the coaches were, well, coaching.
“I figured you'd expect me to go left, now that I know.”
“Over-thinking it, man. When you come down with the ball – and nice catch, by the way – you do a good job of planting your feet and squaring up. As a defensive guy, I try not to over commit. If I buy into your juke and I guess wrong, then I'm toast. If I were you, I'd stop running some preset pattern and start playing the guy in front of you.”
“You know, you remind me a lot of Alec,” I said. Whistles blew and we headed back to our respective squads. After dinner and evening work, we were back in the bunk room with Tweedle-Smelly and Tweedle-Smellier. As we got ready for bed, there was an unmistakably rank odor coming from my mattress.
“What the fuck?” I said aloud.
“Yours too?” Boomer asked.
As one our eyes narrowed and we looked at those stinky bastards, laying back and smiling like satisfied cats. “Problem, pole-smokers?”
Boomer snorted. “With the crotch rot you have going on, you'll be lucky to have anything left, much less a pole.”
“He was, um, compensating,” I said to Boomer in a stage whisper.
“Well, duh,” Sean chimed in. “Everyone knows 'roids give you a small pecker.”
“We don't take steroids!” the one responded, looking at us indignantly. “We do the work. Too bad, for you, you can't stand the smell of hard work.”
“Hard work, I can take. Sweat? I can take. You, growing mold because you're nasty fucks? Not so much,” I retorted.
“You know,” Boomer said in an innocent voice. “If that fungus gets down your dick hole, you know how they get a sample to figure out how to treat it?”
“What do you mean, get a sample?” one rumbled.
“You know, like when they swab your throat to see if you have strep?” he asked and they nodded. “Well, that swab? They shove it in the end of your dick and twist it around.”
“Seriously?” Sean asked, covering his crotch.
Boomer nodded at him with sincerity. “Yep. My cousin had to have it done. His girlfriend gave him a yeast infection.”
“Guys can get yeast infections?” I asked.
“Yep,” Boomer confirmed. “He said his junk would swell up, all deformed and stuff, after he'd banged her.”
“That is some savage snatch,” I snickered.
By now the stinky linemen were looking at one another with concern. Boomer and I flipped our mattresses to put the funk on the bottom and elected to pass on sheets – it was hot enough, anyway. It wasn't long after lights out, though, before we could hear the smell brothers sneaking off to the showers.
“You guys asleep?” Sean whispered.
We both answered in the negative. There was some rustling as we met in the middle of the room and Sean held up their disgusting practice jerseys. “I have some markers I swiped from a coach. Since they are both gone, I'll need help to get it done.”
“Get what done?” Boomer asked.
“Here,” Sean replied, handing a marker to Boomer, “You can put a name on the back of one. Jamie, I need your scissors.”
“Why do you have scissors?” Boomer asked.
“I don't like strings hanging off my clothes,” I shrugged. “If you pull them, sometimes you get more than you planned for, so I snip them.”
“Uh huh. And you have nice clothes to wear at football camp?”
“Well, no. They are just part of my kit. Hey, why are you so interested in my scissors?”
“I'm more interested in why a straight boy is so conscious of his clothes!” Boomer snorted.
“Because you never know who'll be watching, man! What if my future wife is standing there and I look like a scrub?”
“Don't you even think it,” I said, pointing a finger at him. “I'm a wet dream and you know it.”
We all snorted in laughter and I went to grab my scissors. Once Boomer was done with the first name on the jersey - Fartsniffer, a classic – Sean got to work with the scissors, cutting a hole in each arm pit. Then he handed me the cut jersey while taking the other, now named jersey, from Boomer.
“Take that marker, Jamie, and color the edges of the spot I cut out. Hurry, they'll be back, soon.”
Once done, we put their smelly jerseys back and absolutely had to go to the head to wash our hands – the funk just clung to our skin.
“So, what was the story you were going to tell me at breakfast. Something about being converted?” Boomer asked as we walked in the dark.
“Oh, yeah,” I chuckled. “So, it's kind of funny you asked if we knew Alec, because he's a friend of our family.”
“Yeah. He's best friends with my oldest brother. They fight like an old married couple. I swear, if you saw them together, you'd think they were fucking.”
“Are they?” Boomer asked, his brow furrowing.
“No, no way,” I laughed. “Kale – that's my brother – he's married to Chase, and they have a son. Alec and Sasha are engaged, so no – they aren't.”
“Wow. So...what's he like?”
“Alec? He's a fucker,” I said, bursting out in laughter. “I love him. He got me interested in football, taught me how to throw a spiral and how to catch. He and Sash are like extra big brothers. My nephew, Kale and Chase's son? He calls them Uncle Sasha and Son of the bitch.”
“What?” Boomer asked through his giggles. Sean was shaking with laughter, too, as I recounted the story.
“Kale won't tell me all the details and I keep forgetting to ask Alec,” I said, “But I guess Kale called Alec a son of a bitch at some point and Linc latched onto it. He doesn't call him that anymore, but it was damn funny. Oh, our friend, Asher? Linc can't get that 'sh' sound, so when he says his name it sounds like he's calling him 'asshole'.”
We laughed as we entered the head and proceeded to wash up. We could hear the showers running and, with a spark of mischievous malevolence that I greatly admired, Boomer swiped the towels and clothes the stink twins had brought with them. Man, I'm in love. Once outside, Boomer tossed the stuff in the air to scatter outside, which was reasonable, really. I mean, if we'd left them on their beds then they'd know it was us. If we threw them away, well, that wasn't all that cool.
“So, about this conversion?” Boomer prompted.
“Well, don't get excited, I'm still straight,” I joked.
“Get over yourself, Kirkwood,” he laughed.
“Okay, so, last Christmas Alec went and got himself stabbed while being a hero,” I said, rolling my eyes. “He worried everyone, of course, because he can't do anything simple, you know? Not Alec, he started some internal bleeding shit and he almost died, once they thought they had him all stable.”
“Wow. How was that being a hero?”
“Oh, it was how he got stabbed. Some moron was robbing a convenience store – with his face on camera – and Alec stepped up to keep him from stabbing some kid.”
“I know that kid!” Boomer exclaimed. “He lives a few blocks away from me, name is Adam something.”
“Anyway,” I said, resuming my story, “so Alec comes home and he's recuperating and all that. Now, my brothers aren't real big into the rough housing thing, right? I mean, Sean will try to put up a fight, but he's kind of puny.”
“I can pin you!” he laughed.
“Only if Ash helps,” I snorted. “Actually, I guess I should say Kale isn't into the wrestling, but Robin is and his boyfriend, Lu. I think I can take Lu, but Robin destroys me, man. He's taller and stronger.”
“Lu pins you, too,” Sean laughed.
“Yeah, but I feel like I got a fighting chance against Lu,” I grinned. “He looks like a librarian, for Christ's sake.”
“You ever going to get to the converting part of this story?” Boomer asked.
“Why, you want to convert me?” I snickered.
“Kirkwood, you are not that good looking!” Boomer laughed.
“Ah, but you do admit-”
“Yeah, yeah, you're sexy, Jamie, we get it. Tell the damn story before we get back to bed, I'm tired,” Sean groused.
“Okay, so, Alec will wrestle with me all day. When I was littler he used to pick me up and put me on his shoulder and just walk around like I was nothing.”
“He still does that,” Sean snorted.
“You want me to tell this or what?” I asked, feigning injury. Turning back to Boomer I said, “So when he came over to the house on Christmas break, we couldn't wrestle like usual. So I ended up talking to him a lot – he even stayed at the house, once, while the rest of them went out shopping or something, I don't know what. I ended up just getting to know him.”
“Yeah, we kind of picked his brain,” Sean added.
“Anyway, I guess he mistook my enthusiasm and spending time with him as thinking I had a crush on him.”
“He what?” Boomer laughed.
“You have such a man-crush on him,” Sean said, laughing as well.
“Well, yeah, he's awesome,” I said with a grin. “But he thought I had a crush. So they guys come back from whatever it was they did,” I said, waving a hand to let him know how trivial that was, “and Alec says something in a whisper to Kale, right?”
“Kale, your oldest brother, right?”
“Right. So Kale slaps his forehead and mutters something like, 'oh no, not again.' Next thing I know,” I said, starting to laugh, “Kale takes me to his room and he starts having this awkward ass conversation with me about changing bodies and hormones and how being attracted to guys can be a normal part of adolescence and shit.”
By this point we are all giggling madly and I'm trying to choke out the rest of the story. “So I'm like, what the fuck is he talking about, right? And Kale is telling me it's okay and Robin had questions, too, and I should feel free to talk to him.”
“Oh my God,” Boomer laughed. “You had to have asked a question, right?”
“Well, of course!” I laughed. “The thing is, I still didn't know what this was about, right? I mean, Kale is making it sound like he thinks I'm gay or something, and,” I snorted, “as much as I love Alec, it never occurred to me that he thought I was crushing on him. I knew he couldn't be talking about Sean because, well, eww, right?”
They were both leaning against the wall, doing their best to stifle their laughter and nodding with my rationalization.
“So I deadpanned to Kale, 'What's the best way to take it in the pooper?'”
They were both covering their mouths, even though Sean has heard the story before, and I was giggling and snorting like mad, trying to get through the story.
“What...what did he say?” Boomer asked between his laughter.
“He gets all clinical and tight-assed and starts trying to explain things in the most uncomfortable way, until he finally stands up, swearing, and tells me to go ask Robin,” I say, gasping. “Anyway, fast forward about twenty minutes, after Robin has seen right through me – but that fucker still described everything, in detail because nothing embarrasses him!”
Sean collapsed to the ground, holding his mouth and his stomach.
“So, anyway, like twenty minutes later, Alec comes up to my room and he's trying to be all nice and everything, like he's letting me down easy. That's when it hits me – they thought I was crushing on Alec. It was the funniest God damn thing you ever saw, this guy thinking he has to spare my feelings!”
It took a few minutes for the laughing to die down and eyes to be wiped free of the tears, but at last Boomer was upright and he asked, “So what did you say to Alec? You know, when he let you down easy?”
I adopted a formal tone and said, “Alec, I really love you. I just don't want to love you.” Just like that, we were laughing again. That was pretty close to what I said to Alec – fact is, Sean was right, I did have a bit of a man crush on him. He was funny, athletic, and he went out of his way to make me part of things. He seemed to understand that, when I was younger, my behavior was a phase and he didn't hold it against me.
He had no problem calling me on shit, either, but...I don't know. It was different. I felt like he and I were a lot alike, in some ways. Not in the 'I like dick' way. Well, okay, that wasn't entirely...fuck this, I hate analyzing myself. We chuckled all the way back to the room and settled in comfortably, falling asleep in record time.
The next day started comically as our malodorous roommates discovered their modified jerseys. Even better, this realization didn't come until they put them on for afternoon practice. Between the names on the back, the 'pits that look like the funk had eaten its way through and how pissed off they were? Oh, man, I almost couldn't stand up. Unfortunately, the coaches weren't quite as amused and wanted to know who'd done it. Sean stepped up to take the blame, but I couldn't let him go alone. I was, however, a little surprised when Boomer joined us.
So there we stood as those smelly bastards stood to one side with their arms crossed and waited for the coach to lay into us. We three stood in a row in front of his desk as he leaned back in his chair and looked at each of us. I think he meant it to be unnerving.
“So, someone want to tell me what's going on here?”
“It's my fault,” Boomer said.
“It was my idea!” Sean declared, glowering at Boomer.
Coach looked at me expectantly. “It's true,” I replied. “I think he's at fault and it was Sean's idea. Oh, and I helped.”
His eyes narrowed a bit. “If it makes you feel better, you'll all get consequences. What I want to know is why?”
“Coach,” Boomer said, “I've been in that bunk room for a week. Those two,” he said, indicating the stink bombs with a nod of his head, “Hadn't showered or washed their clothes since camp started. Not only was it unsanitary, they refused to clean up, even after the coaches were complained to. The stink in that room was ferocious – and I guarantee that scent you're picking up right now is their jerseys and any other clothes they have on.”
Coach's lips pursed and he glanced at the linemen. “Is this true?”
“It's unlucky,” one began. The coach's eyes narrowed. “Yes, coach.”
“Destruction of property is going a bit far. You three will cover the cost of replacement practice jerseys. You two,” he said, eyeballing the two large boys, “will take your things to the laundry and clean every blessed thing. Then you will report to the nurse, where I'm sure you have jock itch and athlete's foot at the least," he said, frowning. "Jesus, you smell like the devil's outhouse."
The two linemen were looking at Coach, wide eyed.
“That means you have fungus growing in you,” I supplied, helpfully.
“That'll do, Mr. Kirkwood.”
“Sorry, Coach,” I said, bobbing my head.
“Uh, Coach?” Boomer asked after the linemen left the room. “How much are those jerseys?”
He smiled. “Ten bucks.” He frowned then, and said aloud, “Although, considering there is only a few days left and we have a few spares, I guess I could spot you guys.”
The linemen weren't speaking to us that night, and we were largely okay with that. We talked quietly in our free time before lights out.
“So I guess being gay at a Catholic school must suck, huh?”
“Some,” he said with a shrug. “This is my first year there. My last school, also Catholic, closed. My folks got me switched to this one and I didn't really fight them about it.”
“Are you out to them?” Sean asked.
“Yeah. They and my siblings are all cool with it.”
“Got a boyfriend?” I asked.
He narrowed his eyes, “I'm not dating you, Kirkwood.”
I laughed, “No, I was thinking of this friend of ours. I mentioned Asher to you?”
“Jamie! Don't go matchmaking for Ash,” Sean said, sounding irritated with me. At times I think Sean is a little overprotective of Ash. Then again, I was hoping Ash and Boomer would hit it off and relieve some of my guilt.
“Yeah, please,” Boomer asked, “don't do me any favors.”
I frowned. “So you're a gay guy who isn't looking for a boyfriend?”
“I didn't say that,” Boomer replied with a blush. “Opportunities are limited in a Catholic school, for one. And for two, this past year was my first year. There was a guy at my old school, though? Chris Licardi? Man, I sure do wish I'd made a move on him.”
“What stopped you?” Sean asked.
He shrugged, “He was dating. Every time I thought he was single, turned out he was dating someone so...never got the chance.”
“So,” I said, dragging the word out. “It doesn't sound like you're all that happy with your school.”
He shrugged again, “It's school, it's okay.”
“School would be awesome if you were going with us, though,” I said. “Imagine, me and Sean on offense and you on defense?”
Boomer snickered, “I'm not changing schools to play six or eight weeks of football with you, Kirkwood.”
“What about the rest of the school year, though?” I asked. "Think of all the trouble we could get into!"
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, what are you going to do for friends?”
“I'm not a social fucktard, Kirkwood. I can make friends.”
“I know, you made two, here,” I said, smiling in an exaggerated fashion. “So why work to find new friends and be on a team that, apparently, you're not all that happy with when you could join us for football and have friends already? Seems like a no-brainer.”
He tilted his head and gave me a funny look. “Kirkwood, you don't have a crush on me or something, do you?”
“Close,” I grinned. “I have a girl at home I'm asking out as soon as we get back, though.”
“Dude,” I said, spreading my hands out. “We stole a fan, vandalized jerseys, poured detergent and water on them – we bonded, man!” I said with a grin.
He chuckled. “Bonded? Yeah, I guess we did.”
“So what do you think?”
He pushed his bottom lip up and nodded. “I'll talk to my folks, but I know my daddy won't like it much. He's got Jesus on the brain. Fortunately he lives in Kentucky – which is where I'm from – and I'll spend the school year with my mom in the Springs.”
“Sweet!” I said excitedly and reached out to fistbump. “You think your dad will fight it?”
He shrugged. “Catholic school was kind of a trade off for him. It's not his kind of bible thumpin', but he thought some religion was better than none. But,” he said, smiling and scratching his chin, “he's been hollering about the pope an awful lot, so I figure I have even odds.”
“This'll be epic,” I enthused.
“So,” he said, hesitating. “Uh, you guys think I can meet Alec?”
“I guarantee it,” I grinned.
We settled in and I was happy as could be. Firstly, I really did like Boomer. Second, if he and Ash liked each other – and why wouldn't they? - then I might be able to avoid this whole subject with Sean, and that would be a major relief. I really, really didn't like keeping things from him, but I knew he'd be pissed and disappointed with me. Hell, I was pissed and disappointed with me. In a way, I wished I could give Ash what he needed – but to do anything else wouldn't be fair to him. I needed to be his friend.
So, with Boomer around, Ash could have a boyfriend and things will be perfect!