Monday morning my dad re-wrapped my ace bandage after I took my shower. He offered to drop me off at school, but I declined since I knew Parker would be waiting for me. With that in mind I shouldered my bag and settled my crutches under me and, after double checking that my key was hanging around my neck, set off for school. I wasn't surprised to find Parker out in front of my house, skating in lazy circles. I made my way to the sidewalk and Parker skated over beside me, keeping pace.
The sight of him waiting for me as I expected filled me with pleasure. With the awkwardness of my parents and their relationship, not to mention my dad's theories, I learned early on not to bring people home. Instead I spent a lot of time in my head and I guess most people don't care for that. Now, there's Parker. After 16 years, there was Parker. It was so cool to have someone waiting just for you. I had to greet him, to express that joy for the one person that made me feel that way. Something that told him how pleased he made me.
"Hey, Nerd," I said.
"Morning," he said with a yawn.
"Have you picked your historical figure for the project yet?"
He frowned. "No. Can I pick anyone?"
"I guess, if they have some historical significance. Why?"
"I was thinking of a real legend," he said. "Traci Lords."
I frowned. "Who?"
"She was one of the only porn actresses-"
I burst out laughing. "Seriously? A porn actress?"
"Hey!" he exclaimed. "She made the jump from porn to mainstream acting!"
"Oh my God," I said, laughing. I was still chuckling as we approached the school and I was more than a little surprised when Ake broke from a group of friends he was standing with and approached me.
"Shane," he said, nodding to me. I stopped in front of him and Parker did that neat trick where he stepped on the back of the board and flipped it neatly into his hand.
"Ake," I said with a nod.
"I'd like to apologize," he said. I glanced at Parker who rolled his eyes and said, "Later, Shane." He reached out to bump my fist and departed. I turned my attention back to Ake.
"I'd rather we just dropped it, Ake."
"Please, hear me out," he said while holding his hands up before him.
Fuck. It wasn't like I could outrun him, although I suppose I could try to club him with my crutches. Since I didn't move, he decided that was permission to continue.
"I spoke to my pastor about our conversation. We talked for a long, long time about the different paths people take to come to religion-and some that never find the true path."
I opened my mouth but he cut me off. "I want you to know that I accept I was wrong for expecting you to agree with me, to see the world the way I do. I have had the light of Jesus Christ to open my eyes and I only wanted to open yours."
By the time he was done, looking beatific and smug at the same time, I was nearly ready to explode. Instead of doing so I smiled at the poor son of a bitch and decided to engage him, like he wanted.
"The light, huh? You mean like truth?"
"Yes!" he said, nodding, and the light of fervor ignited in his eyes. "The truth of His love, His expectations and life everlasting!"
I sighed. "Okay, well, life after death is a pretty old idea. In fact, your religion didn't even have it first. They stole it."
A look of mild confusion settled on his features. "I'm not sure what you're saying."
"When I was in the fifth grade I got sick and my parents gave me books to read while I was stuck in bed," I explained. "In those books I learned that there were many civilizations that predate your religion that also believed in life after death, in resurrection."
"What people?" he asked, tilting his head in curiosity.
"The ancient Egyptians."
"You mean the ones who worshiped cats?" he asked with a dismissive laugh.
I frowned at him. "Ancient Egyptians invented a calendar. They used advanced mathematics and engineering to build the pyramids. They learned to make one of the earliest forms of paper using papyrus. Their religion had a very complex polytheistic pantheon of gods. Horus, who has a story remarkably similar to the one made up for Jesus much later, being just one of them." I paused and added, "And have you seen how people treat cats? Still worshiped."
Ake held a hand up, "Even if I were to accept that the story has similarities-the ancients worshiped false idols! They had many gods while we have the one true God!"
I sighed. "Ake, how do you explain the saints?"
He frowned. "What do you mean? Explain them how?"
"Tefnut was the Egyptian Goddess of water and fertility. People prayed to her with respect to those things. Today? Saint Nicholas and Saint Erasmus fill those spots. You might think you have one God, but you pray to many depending on what you want."
"That is true!" he said, seizing on my statement and then pausing as if in confusion. It was short-lived as he resumed, "I pray to my God, not to saints or any other!"
I shifted on my crutches, the bag growing heavy on my back and putting pressure on my armpits where the crutches dug into me. "You're missing the point. There are tons of religious pantheons that predate your religion and they use the same basics. There is nothing new."
He shook his head. "How can you compare those...myths to the truth of the Church?"
"That's kind of the point, Ake," I said as I gathered my crutches to move around him. "People that worshiped Osiris or Ra...they said the same things. Today's religion is tomorrow's myth."
I planted my crutches and went around him and he watched me go, his face pulled into a deep scowl. I sailed through my day, after that early bump, and took enjoyment from looking at the guys on my so-called list. Travis looked a little down, and that was disappointing to see. I wouldn't say he was normally a visibly happy guy, but seeing him looking down inspired a feeling in me of wanting to gather him close and soothe him. I wanted to go ask him if he was okay, but we didn't know each other so I wasn't sure how he'd take that.
At the end of the day I laboriously made my way up to the library so I could start typing up my report. I figured if I could get a few pages down and save it I'd be that much closer to being done. Besides, once you have written something it's a good idea to let it sit for a bit before you read it over. I found I've said some really dumb things-and caught them-when I did things that way.
"Hi, Shane." I turned to see Angie Fjeldsted dropping into the seat next to me. "How's my fellow non-believer today? Whoa, crutches?"
"Yeah," I said, nodding to them. "I tried to ride a skateboard and a dog tried to take a chunk out of my ass."
"Wait, what?" she asked with a snort of laughter. So I explained how Parker was trying to teach me to ride his board and our encounter with Bo, guardian of the gateway to hell. She covered her mouth to hide a few laughs but was appropriately impressed when I told her how Parker had stepped between Bo and me, protecting me.
"That's pretty remarkable," she said seriously.
"Parker rocks," I said with a nod. As if speaking his name had summoned him he dropped into the seat on the other side of me.
Without preamble he said, "Curtis Wainwright is so stupid he could fall in a barrel of nipples and come up sucking his thumb."
Angie burst out laughing and I chuckled before asking Parker what he was talking about.
"Well, since you're too chicken, I decided to do some research on your list," he said.
"What list?" Angie asked.
"Guys he'd like to bang," Parker stated.
"There is no list," I protested and turned to Angie. "We were just talking about people we-"
"Would bang," Parker interjected.
"We find attractive," I said with a glare.
Angie was snorting, covering her mouth in a feeble attempt to hide her laughter.
"Anyway, he started dating Maria Fernandez instead of waiting for you. Sorry, man." Parker shrugged and I sighed at him, knowing he wasn't going to stop.
"I told you, Parker, you should just go on a date with me. It'd resolve your promise to find me someone on that so called list," I said, teasing him and quite forgetting about Angie. She reminded me soon enough.
"So, Parker...you're on his list but not dating him?"
"Our love is forbidden," Parker nodded.
Angie looked at him uncertainly and I wondered exactly what he meant, too.
Angie recovered and asked, "Wait, so who's on this list? Maybe I can help?"
I was in the middle of opening my mouth to tell her that wasn't necessary before Parker cut me off.
"Your brother and his boyfriend, but he won't try to break someone up," Parker told her.
"Yeah. They are in that hazy, just-started-dating phase. That's hard to break," she said with a sage nod. "Who else?"
"Curtis, you heard," Parker said. Then, pointing behind us, he said, "Oh, and isn't he on your list?"
Angie and I both looked toward the librarian's desk. There were a few people there, probably looking for reference materials for projects, and Travis was among. Damn it.
"Wow, look at the time. You okay to walk home, Shane?" Parker asked as he stood.
"Perfectly," I growled at him. The bastard winked and said he'd come over after dinner before departing.
"Well, he was entertaining," Angie said.
"That's one word for him," I muttered.
Angie leaned on her hand and idly tapped her finger against her chin. "You know, he looks familiar. I saw you guys walk to school this morning-arriving, you know? Ake try to convert you again, by the way?"
"No," I said, leaning back in my chair. "It was supposedly an apology on his failure to show me the light of truth."
"Yeah, okay. I'm sure that went well."
"But your buddy, Parker. He was over talking to Maria Fernandez this morning. I remember because she had this outfit that I was dying to ask where she'd gotten it from, you know?" She held her hand out in question.
I rolled my eyes and she reached out and tapped me on the back of the head.
"Hey! What was that for?" I groused.
"For being a typical guy," she said with a satisfied look. "I didn't want to go get something like she wore-I wanted to never, ever shop where she bought it. Don't be stereotypical, Shane."
I chuckled. "Okay, I was thinking stereotypical thoughts. You got me. Just be careful when Parker's around - he's pretty protective of me."
"Yeah, I think I see that. I remember him, though, because last Friday he got told to be quiet or get detention in my social studies class, kind of made me remember because he never gets in trouble."
"Parker got threatened with detention?"
"Yeah," she said in a faraway voice. "Funny thing was he was talking to Curt Wainwright. And this morning he was talking to Maria. Now they are dating. Kind of a weird coincidence, huh?"
I paused and thought about her implication. Would he intentionally drive people off my so-called list to keep me for himself? I was flattered, but I should have been incensed, and I realized I wasn't. After all, I didn't mind spending my free time with Parker and the likelihood of anyone on my list being gay seemed reasonably remote.
"Well, I'm not sure about his motivation, but he proved the guy is straight. I guess it saves me the trouble," I told her.
She leaned back in her chair and began fiddling with a pen. "My brother is gay-oh, Parker said he was on your list."
I groaned and put my head down on the desk.
"Hey, I don't see Clint that way myself. Kind of eww, you know?" She paused. "Besides, he likes to walk around the house in his underwear. Freak would go naked if we didn't stop him."
I rolled my face back and forth on the desk, waiting to die.
"Oh," she said in a sly, evil tone. "I think one of the guys on your list is coming over."
I couldn't resist looking up and the realization of her words hit me a few different ways. First, the fact that she called it correctly so completely slapped me in the face; Travis was indeed walking toward us. His strawberry-blonde mop of hair, large glasses and bright eyes were pretty adorable as he navigated over with a large reference book in his hand.
I glanced at Angie, who had a wicked grin on her face as she stood and waved Travis to the seat next to me.
"Sorry it took so long, she had to hunt for it," Travis said to her as he dropped the book in front of the computer and slung his backpack off his shoulders and hung it from the back of the chair.
"No problem," she said sweetly. "I was just talking to my new friend, Shane. Travis, have you met Shane?"
Travis turned to me and used his pointer finger to push his glasses up his nose. I guessed I had it bad, because that was cuter than it had any right to be.
"Shane Blankenship? I don't think we've ever been, you know, introduced," he said to Angie while looking at me. He held his hand out and I took it, marveling at his soft skin and how small his hand was in mine. "Nice to meet you, formally."
"Y-you too, Travis."
"Oh, you guys are going to get along, I can tell," Angie said, her sweet tone coming across as kind of sneaky to my ear. But why would she do that, considering they were dating? Travis looked slightly confused, and I took the opportunity to say that I should really start on my project and opened my book, trying to focus on doing just that.
But, with the exception of Parker, I'd never been that close to someone on my list for any length of time. Travis was now speaking to Angie, and it was clear that he was taking everything she said seriously from his tone, level of quick agreement, and his body language. Which I should not be noticing because I was working on my own project.
With a sigh I realized I probably wouldn't do any better with Parker next to me and decided to pack it in for the day. I packed up and spared a glance at the couple next to me, and Angie gave me a knowing look. I was reminded of how she said evil was kind of her thing and lost my grip on my bag, dropping it to the floor.
"Oh, let me grab that," Travis said, leaning down and pulling my bag up. "You okay to get down the stairs?"
"Yeah, thanks, Travis," I said, taking the bag and slinging it across my shoulders.
"Travis, that was sweet of you to ask," Angie said and Travis smiled at her.
What was her game? I nodded at them and said, "See you," before heading out of the library and making my way home.
As I settled into a steady rhythm of step and clank, between my sneaker and crutches, I let my thoughts wander to Parker putting Maria and Curtis together if, in fact, he did that. If he did, was he simply trying to help me get a date, even though I'd told him not to, or was he actually trying to make it so that it would just be him and me, though he wasn't gay and wouldn't date me? Then there was Angie and Travis. It was clear Travis liked Angie a lot, but Angie didn't seem as invested. Had she been sitting Travis next to me just to mess with me or was she messing with him as well? If so, how? Why?
Once home I thumped around and did my chores because being sick or hurt wasn't any excuse in my father's book. He'd said time and again that things have to get done and the world keeps going no matter how I feel. Thankfully we were having leftovers, so I hadn't had to worry about defrosting anything.
I went to my room and worked on my homework until my dad got home, pausing only as he poked his head in to see where I was. It was kind of weird, my relationship with my dad. He was demanding and frequently indifferent, yet he cared enough to make sure I was home and doing what I was supposed to be doing. I shook my head of the thought and finished up my homework before heading out to get some dinner.
I wasn't quite done when Parker got there, and he hung around the table while I ate. He made the meal last longer than it should just because he was making me laugh. Finally we headed to my room.
"So, Angie says she saw you talking to Curtis and Maria. Then all of a sudden they start to date. Weird, huh?" I asked him, my tone neutral.
"Yeah, totally," Parker said with curiosity. "Think Angie likes me?"
"Wait, what? How did you get that from what I said?"
"Simple. You said she was watching me," he replied with a shrug and an insolent grin. "I wonder if she rubs one out thinking about me as much as you do."
I narrowed my eyes and said, "You're lucky I can't run. Otherwise I'd kick your ass."
"Maybe," he conceded with a wide grin. "But you didn't deny it."
I fumed to his amusement. We hung out in my room afterward, talking and picking on each other until it was time for him to go.
Tuesday after school he talked me into going over to see Bo. Reluctantly, and only because he was with me, I went. He brought up the idea, again, of going out on Halloween and walking Bo in a Cerberus costume. He was talking, also again, about us wearing skeleton costumes and wanting to go look at costumes after school Thursday; I nodded absently. It was kind of weird to think about going out on Halloween as I hadn't ever really done it. My dad said everyone would try to poison me. It was fun to think about having someone to do stuff like that with.
As we approached the house I could hear Bo baying to the other guardians of the underworld that someone was approaching the door. He was pounding and scratching on the door and, dimly, I could hear his 'mother' telling him to calm down and sit. I glanced at Parker once, nervously, then latched my sight on the door as it started to open.
"Ho, Bo!" Parker said, dropping to one knee and holding his hand out to the behemoth. Bo started to dance and whine, licking Parker and pushing into him hard enough to make him totter and nearly fall. He threw a hand out to keep himself upright while laughing at Bo. An involuntary smile crept across my face.
"Bo, this is my best friend, Shane," Parker said, taking his collar and edging him toward me. "Shane, put you hand down for him to sniff."
I glanced at Parker and, nervously put my hand down toward Bo, who surged forward - which made me jump -and sniffed and licked my hand like mad. A smile tugged at my lips and it was only then that it dawned on me that the lady was speaking.
"-so sorry that he scared you. He's only six months old and when my son asked me to take care of his puppy for a spell, I never thought he'd grow to be like this monster!"
I glanced up in to her kindly face and smiled. "I hope he's housebroken."
"Oh, he is," she said with a nod. "Thank goodness. He pisses a lake every time he has to go."
Parker was speaking animatedly to Bo, rubbing his ears and scratching his butt all at once. Bo was wiggling in happiness, whining and yipping and clicking his nails on the floor as he turned.
"You just need exercise, don't you Bo? Yes you do, yes you do," Parker cooed at the big dog.
"He sure does!" she said enthusiastically.
Parker looked up and said, "I could walk him, if you like."
She looked down a little doubtfully. "Do you think you can handle him?" she looked askance at Parker, her voice laced with worry.
"Sure. Bo and I are going to be good friends. How about we walk right here on the block so you can see us?"
She thought for a moment and then nodded. "Let me just grab his leash." She walked deeper into the house and Bo was kept fully entertained by Parker and his wiggling fingers. In minutes she was back and Bo started to jump in excitement when he saw the leash. Parker, though, had a hand on his collar and told him firmly to sit while pushing down on his butt.
Bo sat, his tail wagging furiously. He tried to stand a few times but each time Parker took the leash away and told Bo to sit. It took several times, but eventually Bo stayed seated long enough to allow Parker to attach the leash and then lunged for the door, sending one of my crutches clattering. He jumped back, startled by the crutch falling, but recovered and pulled for the door again.
"Bo, sit!" Parker said firmly. Bo ignored him and started to drag Parker out the door. Parker planted his feet and reached into his pocket, pulling out a small treat. "Bo. Sit!" he said, waving his closed hand with the treat near Bo's nose.
The response was immediate. Bo turned and hopped up, reaching for the treat. It took a few moments before he got the idea and sat to get his treat. Parker shortened up the leash by wrapping it around his wrist and took Bo out the door, restraining him a tad as Bo struggled to surge forward. Three times between the front door and the gate he told Bo to sit and by the third time, Bo understood sit was code for treat.
"That's one smart boy!" she said, shaking her head and watching as Parker started walking Bo down the street.
"You have no idea," I told her, frankly impressed.
"He your best friend? Looks that way," she said as she turned. "You want a can-drink? I'll get you both one."
I spared a second wondering what a can-drink was and then dismissed it, telling her I would and thank you. I retrieved my fallen crutch and made my way out to the fence. Parker was on his way back and Bo was still pulling, but Parker looked to be more in charge, for the moment.
"Shane! Hand me my board?" he called out as he approached. I cast about and hobbled over to pick his board up from the grass and met him at the gate.
"Thanks. I want to try something. Come on, Bo!" He stepped out into the street and hopped up on his board and said, "Let's go, Bo!"
"What in the world?" said the lady as she appeared by my side with cans of Coke. We both watched as Bo happily trotted down the block, pulling Parker in his wake. We laughed as he struggled to get Bo turned around and laughed harder as he went by us faster than he might have intended as Bo quite suddenly streaked toward something I couldn't see. I accepted the drink and we watched Bo and Parker as they cruised up and down the street.
After about thirty minutes Parker rolled up and stepped onto the curb, a panting but happily tail-wagging Bo trotting back to sit next to him like he'd been doing that forever. Then he flopped over and started licking his groin.
Once inside the gate Parker told him to sit. Bo complied and Parker removed the leash. Like a shot, Bo bounded inside, no doubt to drain his water bowl.
"That was very impressive," the old lady said as she handed the Coke to Parker, who accepted with a grin.
"That was fun. I can do that for him if you want."
"I'm not sure which one of you had more fun!" she said and laughed as Bo came back out and flopped onto the grass. "I've never seen that dog worn out, but that was good for him."
We left soon after, splitting up to go our separate ways. I mentioned going to look at costumes on Thursday to my dad, since Parker would likely talk that lady into taking Bo out on Halloween. He said I could go and get one and gave me money right then so he wouldn't forget, which surprised me. In bed later, I replayed the fun Parker was having, riding up and down the block being pulled by Bo.Previous Chapter