Life has so many unexpected twists and turns, where it takes us remains and always will be a mystery. We take so many things for granted; our health, our good fortune or bad, our friends, each day, each week, each month or year, until it is over. We naturally assume everything will be just fine with little or no consequences resting on our shoulders. All those little seeming, inconsequential events, those minor, trivial happenings, discoveries, or bits of knowledge gained, all have an effect on our lives it might seem, the days lived and the days to come.
There are those, almost, everyday occurrences or subtle changes in our routines, at the time would appear to be innocuous, unimportant under most circumstances, yet in the long-haul, have a dramatic and lasting effect on one's life. It has been said life is but a journey, yet it ends the same for all. I guess it's how and where you take your steps along the way that adds dimension.
My path, my life's journey changed radically after I finished my eighth-grade year in a manner which was totally unanticipated by me, yet rewarding and fulfilling, releasing untold stories, some sadness, and the pleasures of family, fulfilling Hardy and me in most joyful ways.
Our little band of rascals or friends or sometimes mischief makers as some referred to us, finished elementary school, proceeded to junior high school and all of its intrigues, and was on our way to high school in the fall.
Thomas Jefferson High School, so named because when it was built apparently the school board couldn't decide on a name agreeable to the majority. It just as easily could have been called City High School and be done with it.
We'd navigated the lower grades and Junior High quite well, growing stronger in our bonds of friendship, loyalty, and secrecy. Mooch and Buzz were lovers as well as Sketch and Sling, and of course, Hardy and me. Skeeter had yet to find someone special for himself, but that was to change. Just because we were couples, so to speak, it didn't stop us from sharing sexual pleasures with each other. Skeeter loved to bottom so all of us took it upon ourselves to oblige him when we and if he had the urge.
The outside world, those who weren't of our sexual orientation, viewed us the best of friends, banded together as a small "gang" bent on some sort of mischief and not a group anyone wanted to anger or bother. Hence, we were pretty much left alone! We tried to be covert in our actions, masking as best we could our sexual preferences. It took some doing, but it can be done, if you're careful! Although there were others of like nature (queers) with whom we associated with and enjoyed pleasures with, they weren't a normal part of our "Sunday Club."
It was early May, after the school day ended and about two weeks left in the school year. I was busy at work in Grandpa Thompson's garage rehabilitating a bicycle in desperate need of repairs and a paint job. It was one we "rescued" from a back alley not far from the City Hall and Police Station. There were times the cops would pick up an abandoned bike or retrieve a stolen bike and if the owner didn't claim it, they tossed it out in the alley near a big dumpster. We'd spot it, spirit it away, and either rebuild it or use it for parts. We had quite an inventory of spare parts stored in Grandpa's garage as a result.
The back alley behind the City Hall wasn't the only place we scavenged for bikes. The city was ours to scour and haul the results of our successful searches back to the garage. Sometimes, "by mistake," a fairly decent bike from one of our more affluent neighborhoods in the city would end up in the shop. In our scouting and rummaging about, if we were successful and the bike was ridable, we rode it back to Frenchtown. If not, we'd haul it aboard a city bus with us. Sometimes the driver would be a real shit-ass and try to toss us off (generally successfully) but not until he received the barrage of complaints about how people carried bags of groceries on the bus and he didn't object to "if I was an old lady with a shopping cart full of shit you wouldn't toss me off." The funniest was the day Skeeter shouted out, "If I was girl you wouldn't toss me off, but I'm not, see! You want to toss me off?" and started to pull down his pants. He didn't mean to toss him off the bus either! Bus damn near hit a stop sign! We got booted off anyway.
Well, you just never know, do you? The driver might have been a boy-lover and given us a ride, of some sort.
We could also call Grandpa to come get us, if we found a payphone and had any money on us, and he would or we could hide the bike, ride the bus home, and Grandpa would go with me to retrieve the bike. It was his idea for us to fix up old bikes. He figured and was right, there were plenty of kids in Frenchtown and other parts of the city who didn't have the funds for a bike and could use one. He was right! He claimed it'd keep us out of trouble- wrong! We learned a lot from him and became quite adept and skilled at fixing bikes up and locating boys or girls who could use one.
Most times, there were two or three of us working on a bike or bikes, but this particular day I was alone. Hardy had some chores to do at home. Anyway, I was having a tough time loosening the large nut securing a pedal to the shaft and after squirting it with penetrating oil, I wrenched hard on it, the wrench slipped, and I banged up a knuckle on the sprocket.
"Shit!" I snorted, angry and hurt!
"You said a naughty word!" a small, immature voice remarked from behind me.
Whoever it was startled me and I shouted, "What the fuck!" and started to turn around just as the small, soft voice accusingly announced to God and all the world,
"You just used the really, really bad word that time! My G-Ma would stuff a bar of soap in my mouth if I used that one!"
Completing my turn, banging my elbow on a tire rim and swallowing another epitaph and hence avoiding another admonition concerning my use of vulgarity or "naughty words," I cast my eyes on my accuser.
Standing, somewhat anxiously in front of me, was a boy- a very young boy! His eyes were black and wide-eyed in either shock or amazement over my language, hair just as dark, rather slim (skinny in fact), narrow-hipped, weighing maybe fifty pounds soaking wet, not more than four feet tall, dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt, and cute as a bug!
He certainly didn't seem to fear me even though I was much bigger, perhaps not threatening, but certainly beyond his age and size. Wondering who this delightful creature was, I inquired,
"And who might be your G-Ma?"
Answering without hesitation, his big eyes, seeking reassurance from me I wouldn't ridicule him or castigate him severely for pointing out my faults for the use of almost common vocabulary in Frenchtown,
"My grandmother Marchetti! I live with her and G-Pa now!"
"So," I ventured, my mind searching for answers to questions I probably was informed of if I'd paid attention. The Marchetti Family were our neighbors and had been for many years, long before Momma and I moved in with my grandparents. They were pleasant folks, older, and great friends of Grandpa and Grandma Thompson. Grandma and Vivian (Mrs. Marchetti) visited back and forth, helped each other with canning, quilting, and other household chores, as well as drinking coffee together several times per week.
The fog slowly began lifting in my brain, bringing a memory of Grandpa and Grandma talking to Momma about the Marchetti's youngest daughter, dying somewhere in Illinois the week before. Compassion for a friend's loss, prompted Grandma to prepare a couple of casseroles and a pie to take over to her friend. Grandpa bought Leo (Mr. Marchetti) a bottle of wine at the Liquor Store as part of his expression of condolence. In all of this, I never heard mention of a grandchild involved. Maybe or maybe not, the lad in front of me well could've been the son of the deceased daughter or someone else's. After all, the Marchetti's did have a rather large family.
"My name is Bill Thompson."
"I know," the cutey responded, "G-Ma said you lived here. I heard you out here," waving his arm about to indicate where we stood, "so I came in!"
Still no name!
So, I smiled my best, welcoming, warm smile, asking, "And you are?"
"Johnnie Marchetti and I'm six years old but I'll be seven in two more months."
I sort of knelt down so as to be on his level, smiled again, held out a hand, and looking into his soft, dark eyes, said, "Welcome Johnnie Marchetti; you already know my name and I'm thirteen and will be fourteen soon!"
"Fix'in a bike. Wanta help?"
I pulled over a step stool so, if I worked at the bench, Johnnie could stand on it and see and help. It'd give me an opportunity to ask a pointed question or two as we worked. Grandpa always said sometimes you can learn more by saying little.
Johnnie grinned, his face and actions indicating he'd be more than happy to help; happy to be included and part of something! It didn't take him long to learn the names and recognize the various tools, such as wrenches and screwdrivers, I used to take apart the bike. As we worked, I explained why we fixed up bicycles and who we gave them to.
I noticed as we worked, his smile, his eyes, and some of his mannerisms seemed vaguely familiar to me, although I never knew his mother or any of the other children. They were all older than me and only on occasions, holidays or other times, I'd catch a glimpse of them and their families. Perhaps, I thought at the time, it's because I've seen so much of his grandmother and grandfather over the years.
We said little, although Johnnie did ask quite a few questions concerning bikes, people, friends, and many, many other things. It was when he announced he'd just come to live here the day before that he became suddenly quiet!
I looked up from what I was doing and noticed his lower lip was protruding, quivering with sorrow, his eyes welling over with tears, and heard a small, suppressed sob escape from his chest! Quickly, I stepped away from the bench, sat on a stool, and opened my arms to him. He said not a word as he almost dove from the step stool into my arms and seemed to melt into them, his whole body and soul mine to hold and comfort. Loud, hard, anguish filled sobs racked his body as he clung to me, head on my chest, his arms holding me tight as mine held him.
I held him, hugged him, rocked him back and forth in attempts to comfort him and reassure him I was there to ease or at least share his suffering. I said nothing; nothing needed to be said! Johnnie was a sad, lonely little boy and was reaching out to me. His emotional reactions seemed to ease a bit, he lifted his head, and tear-filled eyes gazed into mine as he announced,
"My Momma died!" All I could think of to say was "Oh, dear!" I felt him take a deep breath and exhale, so I added, "That's why you're so sad, yes?"
He lay his head back on my chest and I could feel him nod. Scooching him around so he sat comfortably on my lap (and made holding him much easier for me), he settled his head on my chest, pulled my arms around him to draw me as close to him as possible, and let out a deep, deep sigh! I guess the comforting hug and arms of a thirteen-year-old was just what he wanted or needed, because it wasn't long I felt him relax, looked down, and noticed he was sound asleep!
I felt no need to wake Johnnie, in fact, it was comforting for me to hold him in my arms while he slept. It gave me a degree of pride, confidence, strength, and responsibility realizing someone so young would trust me so. I was a stranger to him, but he seemed to see beyond that. I think he saw me, just thirteen-year-old, as someone who could shield him from some of the nastiness in the world. I was positive the other boys, Hardy and the rest, would feel the same way. After all, what's not to like about Johnnie? For some reason, he took to me and I to him! It felt natural and comforting to me to hold him as he held on to me, as if it were meant to be!
My thoughts were interrupted when I looked up from Johnnie to the doorway and spotted Grandma and Mrs. Marchetti standing there quietly, hoping not to waken him. Perhaps they thought something happened to him so I offered,
"He's plumb tuckered out and fell asleep."
They both smiled, knowingly after having raised their own families. Johnnie stirred, stretched, looked up at me, grinned, and noticed his grandmother (G-Ma) standing in the doorway. He slowly, almost reluctantly, slid from my lap, and walked sleepily toward her.
"I was helping Billy fix a bike and we got tired."
I noted he said "we!"
One hand secured in his grandmother's, the other giving me a wave, they left for home. My grandmother watched them leave, gave me a peculiar look, appearing somewhat sad, but still happy!
The bus ride to school the next day and at lunch, since we all had the same lunch period, involved, in part, discussion concerning my visitor and delighting over Moocher smearing black shoe polish on one of the toilet seats in the faculty men's restroom. The toilet seats were black and if someone was in a hurry, plopping his ass down on the seat, he'd have a toilet seat design on his ass and his shorts would probably stick. Talk about "ring around the rosie!"
"Those doors are locked!" Buzz noted, anxiously.
"Some people shouldn't leave their keys around where others can filch them!" Moochie responded with a shit-eating grin!
"So, where did you find them?"
"Saw them on the floor of one of the boys' restroom shitter stall's floor while I was giving Sketch a blowjob!"
This led to general speculation concerning why a male teacher would lose his keys in the boys' restroom since the teachers had their own. Hardy speculated one of the teachers was a "player" and lost them in the process of fucking or blowing one of the students.
Not hardly, I thought, but one never knows does one?
"What if you got caught?"
"Didn't, did I? If so, I'd explained his zipper was stuck."
"No, you dip shit; with the fucking keys?" Buzz continued, concerned Moochie might be heading for deep shit!
"Don't hav'em now!"
"Where are they?"
"In Mrs. Harrison's purse!"
"The English teacher on second floor?"
"Yep! Dropped them in her purse as she was walking down the hall during class passing."
The conversation turned back to Johnnie.
"Maybe we better stop over after school and meet him," Sketch proposed.
I thought it'd be better for Hardy and me to make him feel comfortable and then as the week went on, meet the rest of the gang. Otherwise, it might overwhelm him!
Hardy and I walked from the bus stop to my house after school and there was Johnnie sitting on the porch step waiting for me. He started to wave and then hesitated when he realized someone strange, someone he didn't know, was with me. I held out my arms and Johnnie clambered into them, ready for a hug, and some friendly banter.
Hardy, bless his heart, put Johnnie at ease right away and before long Johnnie was comfortable with him as well. When Hardy told him he lived across the street and he and I were best friends since diaper-days, Johnnie's concerns were eased. When Hardy asked me if there were sugar cookies in Grandma Thompson's cookie jar and I replied in the affirmative, Hardy gave Johnnie a wink,
"Mrs. Thompson always has cookies for us when we come home from school, right Billy?"
I nodded and led the way into the house and the kitchen where we enjoyed cookies and milk. As we snacked, I noticed Hardy looked at me, then Johnnie, and back at me. He had the same peculiar look on his face that Grandma Thompson had.
Johnnie loved the other guys as they showed up during the week and was accepted as "their Johnnie" by them. They also gave me a look, looked at Johnnie, and back again at me.
My curiosity was growing! It came to a halt when I noticed a picture hanging on the hall wall. It was where Grandma and Grandpa kept all of their family photos. Among all of the grandchildren was one of me. Only it looked like Johnnie Marchetti!
I needed to have a talk with Uncle Lou and soon!
"So," Uncle Lou pondered, quizzing me more with his eyes than the question, "you have a question concerning Johnnie Marchetti?"
"Sort of," I answered sheepishly.
"Sort of, huh? Well," Uncle Lou pressed, "either you do or you don't! I'm betting you do and you really didn't want to ask your Momma or Grandma and Grandpa?"
"Yeh!" I responded softly, my head slumping in a classic bashful manner.
"Then, why don't you tell me what it is."
Taking a deep breath, I looked at him, sitting behind his office desk to the chair I was sitting in, and began on the why's I decided to ask him instead of Momma and Grandpa and Grandma for fear of embarrassing them or give them the impression I didn't love them. Uncle Lou listened carefully, centering his full attention on me, encouraging me with reactions on his face and in his eyes.
"Uncle Lou," I stammered, "are Johnnie Marchetti and I related? My picture taken at about his age and him have a remarkable resemblance!"
Uncle Lou smiled at me the same loving, accepting, smile he often sent my way, indicating his pride, his concern for my welfare, and, yes, his trust in me.
"Billy, my lovely nephew, Johnnie Marchetti is your half-brother! Same father- different mothers."
His announcement, made with certainty, reflecting his belief in the accuracy of his information, was no surprise to me! It was, as I suspected, exactly the same as I'd concluded before attending to him. The dilemma now facing me; what should I do with the information I'd just received?
Uncle Lou added to my knowledge, explaining our, Johnnie's and my, biological father was a young man from a moderately well-fixed family, certainly more-so than mine or others in Frenchtown, while in his senior year, convinced my mother she was the love of his life, got her pregnant, and then abandoned her! She was devastated while he seemed quite pleased of his accomplishment and overjoyed, he didn't have to participate in any fatherly activities. Uncle Lou and company caught up with the young man and convinced him to vacate the area or meet possible life-long consequences to specific body parts he seemed to hold so dear.
The self-proclaimed Lothario was absent for several years, appeared surreptitiously, met and seduced Roberta (Bobbi) Marchetti, impregnated her, and took off!
"You probably didn't know, Billy, but Bobbi worked for me here at the Ale Haus as one of my table waitresses. She was a pretty thing, popular for her prompt and caring service to the customers, and smart as a whip! I wish I could have protected her better!" he announced softly and remorsefully.
Johnnie's mother left the area to live with an older brother to have the baby. She didn't return home except for an occasional visit to her parents. They did, however, go visit her and young Johnnie quite often.
"What happened to him?" I asked, referring to the ingrate who fathered us, indignantly and with partially suppressed anger.
"Well, the Marchetti Family is a large family! There were several older brothers, tons of cousins, and even a larger extended family."
Uncle Lou paused again, perhaps for emphasis or in a sort of pleasant remembrance, "He'll never return here again!"
Swallowing, giving a small cough to clear my throat and allow my mind to absorb Uncle Lou's pronouncement, I dared to ask,
"What was his……"
My impending question was neatly, cut off by Uncle Lou, announced, "No, I won't give you his name nor will anyone else say his name. No sense digging up rotten news and then trying to bury it again!"
End of statement!
"What I do ask you to promise me, Billy, is for you to accept, treat, and love Johnnie as your younger brother. Watch after him, protect him as best you can, and be there for him no matter what. He's a very special boy, as you are to me, Billy!"
Of course, I promised, why wouldn't I?
"Does Johnnie know we're brothers?"
"No, let him discover it himself and when he asks, answer with love in your heart."
I did ask, if he had so many uncles and other relatives, why they didn't raise him after his mother died. Uncle Lou explained Johnnie's mother insisted his grandparents do so, signed guardianship papers granting it, when Johnnie was perhaps one of two years old. I thought she knew I was Johnnie's half-brother and wanted us raised in the same neighborhood and atmosphere, thinking we'd develop a friendship and a familiar bond eventually. How right she was!
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