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Chapter Eleven

By Paul Schroder

the geeks

Well, the boys returned home after a most interesting afternoon in Potter's Field. The three had dipped their bods in a hot spring and then Jeremy and Michael dipped their wicks... hehehe! After returning to the brothers' house, they are ready to put their paint-ball plan into action. Jer will take over the narration from here...

Well, it took us a couple of hours but we came up with a pretty good-looking invitation to Skull's party - at least, we think it's pretty good. We printed it up on some regular 8x11card stock in a half fold design. The front has a big U.S. Army logo and it says, "Greetings from your government." When you open the card it starts out like this:

You are hereby ordered for induction into the Army to defend your town against eminent invasion from a vile enemy. You will be issued a weapon (paint-ball gun) and ammunition (paint-balls) and will march into battle with your comrades in arms. The odds are extremely high that you will be shot - repeatedly!

You must provide the following

[Your Own Uniform] - fatigues or camouflage clothing preferred; but any long pants and long sleeved shirt will suffice.

[A Washable Jacket] Mornings are cold. The jacket will get splattered with paint-balls (these are really just colored soap and will wash out of clothing - but don't be stupid and wear your good clothes!!!)

[A Backpack] - your school pack is OK. In the pack you will carry the following:

.........................1- A Water bottle - or Gatorade for re-hydration.

.........................2- A Bath Towel.

.........................3- A Change of Clothing - can't go home colored like a rainbow!

If you do not have some of the equipment listed above, notify corporal Scully to see if requisition can be made from Army stores.

You will make formation at Potter's Field near the intersection of Main Street and Mojave Drive (in the Barants Subdivision). Formation is at 0900 hours (9 a.m.) On this coming Saturday.

.........................The Army will provide you with the following:

[A weapon and ammunition.]

[A Casket!] - har, har!

[Lunch] - hot dogs, chips and hot chocolate.

[A soak in a hot spring following the battle] - Bring a swim suit if you're too wimpy to skinny dip like a real soldier!

Participation is not mandatary. If you can't or don't wish to attend, return this invitation to corporal Scully so someone else can be invited in your place. Refer all further questions to the corporal.


"Well, Michael, Skull - what do you think?" I ask.

"This is great, Jeremy," Scully says, "and I love the way you made me a corporal. That means the rest of the guys are just privates, right?"

"Heck, yeah," Mic answers. "Only Jer and I are higher cuz we are the sergeants."

Michael and I are grinning at each other because Scully is dancing around, waving our first printed invitation and yelling...

"Neat-o, neat-o, neat-o! Oh guys, this is sooo kool."

He runs up and grabs us both in a vice-like grip. He is hugging us for all he's worth. You couldn't slap that smile off his little beaming face with a stick. Not that I'd want to, it's so bitchen seeing Skull's face all lit up.

We all slap a high-five. Things are definitely coming together. We have enough money to buy plenty of food and ammo. Our Mom has a huge supply of foam cups and paper napkins so we don't have to buy that stuff. We are going to go to the Army Surplus store to buy some sergeant's stripes to sew onto our field jackets and camo shirts. We'll get some corporal's stripes for Skull. Then I get an idea and say...

"Hey, Skull. How would you feel about making Kyle a corporal, too? He knows as much about paint-ball as the rest of us. He can help keep the guys in line, too."

Scully nods his head in response. "I'll buy him some stripes at the Surplus store, Jer. I can give them to him Monday so he'll have time to sew them on. I'll tell him you guys have given him an official promotion."

Well, of course, it's another round of high-fives. Scully is getting better at the belly bump too. By jumping up in the air he can contact something besides our wieners... heheheh!

"So, are we forgetting anything, guys?" I ask them.

"Well, there's one thing we haven't discussed yet, Jer. What happens if one of these guys shows their invite to a parent and they want to call your house? They might want to know if this is a safe thing for little Johnny to be doing."

"I've kinda thought about that, Mic. Here's what I think Scully and I will do. Tonight, at dinner, we will inform Mom that you and I and Scully are going to get together with a few guys from school to have a paint-ball fight this weekend. I won't say whose school the other guys are coming from. She will just assume that it's our friends, Michael - not Skull's. I don't think she'll be concerned since we've played the game for ages."

"Yeah," Scully says, "but what if one of my friend's parents call up? Won't she know it's one of my friends then, Jeremy?"

"Well, Skull, we'll just have to hope that Mom trusts us to keep this thing safe for everyone and will assure the parent that it isn't too dangerous when the rules are followed. But, who knows, Scully, Mom just might put the kibosh on the whole thing. Maybe you should inform your friends that if they think their parents might object then they should probably not come. Then you can give the invitation to someone else."

"Do you think it's a good idea to lead your Mom on, Jeremy? And you know, when the Weasel tells them they can't come if they think their parents would object, they probably just won't tell their parents."

"I know this is all a gray area, guys. We aren't really lying to Mom and we aren't telling Skull's friends to lie, either. They will all just need to follow their own consciences. Skull..." I say and look towards him, "you said yourself that the thing that would attract kids to your party would be something that they wouldn't ordinarily get a chance to do, you know, because it's too grown-up. Well, this is one of those things. Your friends are just going to have to play it by ear and decide whether their parents are permissive enough to inform."

"I guess you're right, Jer. I don't like the idea of making an end-run around any grown-ups but, what the heck, if this were a porn party or drinking party we'd have to do the same thing," he says with a big grin. "And, who knows, from the way we worded the invitation, it may just turn into a skinny-dipping party too... snort, snort!"

"Yeah," Michael laughs, "no-one's going to want to be the wimp that ends up in a bathing suit. Oh, I'll bet they all stick one in their backpacks but will wait to see if anyone else wears one. The three of us will just have to be the first to strip and hop into the pool. Then we'll see who the wimps are!"

I can't believe this is my Mikey talking! A week ago he was changing his clothes in his closet for cripe pete! And now he's talking about being the first one nude in front of a bunch of boys. Yep, suck one little old dick and soon you're a total pervert... heheheh!

"OK, tonight we inform Mom about the game for next weekend. If nothing is said to nix the idea then tomorrow we go shopping for the stuff we need. We can stick the hotdogs and buns in the basement freezer. So, Michael, do you suppose we could get your sister to stand out in the field and let the boys take practice pot shots at her?"

"Har, har!" We are all laughing at the vision of Suzzane being turned into a target. Maybe like the wicked witch in the Oz story she would melt and go away!

"OK guys, I'm going to split for home, then. It's getting close to dinner. Call me tonight if there turns out to be any problem with your Mom."

"Kay," I say as Michael takes the stairs two at a time. The boy's stomach is his wristwatch and the big hand is on dinner time.

"Well, Skull, why don't you print up the rest of the invitations while I go take a shower. I'm going to wash off the rest of the Michael juice... snort, snort!"

"Oh, thanks so much for the visual image, Jer. God, if you were any more pervy you could get on Peewee Herman's Playhouse!"

I smack Scully up the side of his head, just cuz I can, and grab some clean underwear.

Later, after dinner, Scully and I get together in my room.

"Well, that went pretty good with Mom, don't you think?" Scully asks me.

"Heck ya, little bro. We lucked out there. All she did was tell us to be careful and wear our protective gear. I was afraid we were going to radiate all these guilt feelings for her to pick up on."

"And," Skull says, "I'm not really nervous about handing out these invitations and talking to these guys. I mean, I have something to talk about, so I can't see myself getting all tongue-tied like I usually do."

"That's good, Skull. I know you'll do alright, bud."

On Sunday the three of us go shopping. We get mixed colors in the paint-balls so we can use a different color for each battle. We buy our stripes and Skull gets a set for Kyle. The last stop is the grocery store and we pick up lunch fixings. When we get home I give Tyson another call. I asked Ty to put his little brother on the phone. (Kyle sounds like a little squeekier version of his big brother.) I tell him we are looking forward to having him join us and that Scully is pretty psyched that he's coming. He just laughs and says he likes my little brother but he seems awfully shy. This causes me to laugh in return and I agree with him. Then I tell him that this paint-ball thing is just to help Scully get out of his shell a little and start talking to people. Kyle giggles and says he will try to help him out when he passes out the invitations. We talk a little more, then I ask him not to mention this conversation with Scully. I tell him that I want Scully to think he's doing this all on his own.

The last business for the day is another trip to our secret spot in Potter's Field, which soon won't be a secret anymore... oh well, it's for a good cause. We take up a bag of flour and make some battleground markings. We also put up some cardboard targets. The week's weather forecast is for clear weather so we don't need to worry about the markings washing away before next weekend. Of course we have to finish up with a dip in the pool. And then Scully has to take a small hike while Mic and I attend to some other business... snort, snort!

Monday finally arrives. It is a long school day for Mic and me, wondering how Scully is doing with his invitations. After school, when we get to my house, we find Scully waiting in my room. As we enter Scully is fairly dancing around Michael and me. He can't get out a complete sentence cuz he has about a hundred things to say - all at once. Michael and I have to throw him on the bed and tickle him into near unconsciousness to get him to slow down. After catching his breath he has this to tell us...

"Tyson's brother, Kyle, met me first thing when I got to school. And... and I wasn't tongue-tied or anything. I just handed him his invitation and stood there while he read it. He looked at me after he read it, smiled, and said, "This is way kool, dude; this is going to be a whole lot of fun." Then I handed him his corporal's stripes and said you guys were giving him a promotion. Then... giggle, he gave me a salute and said, "I'll try not to let you guys down," and then he winked at me. I just nodded at him cuz I started to feel tongue-tied again."

"Har, har," Michael laughs, "so what else is new, bud? What happened next?"

"Well... then Kyle asked me if he could help hand out the other invitations and I said sure. He wanted to know who else I was inviting. I said he probably wouldn't know them cuz they weren't into sports and stuff, that they were kind of geeky like me. Then Kyle just laughed and said it was kool cuz he got tired of hanging out with jock boys anyway."

Scully looks up into my face, his own face beaming like a searchlight. He says...

"Then guess what he said, Jer... guess!"

I'm chuckling at him now, he's so excited. I just shook my head and said...

"I have no idea, Scully. Why don't you tell us?"

Michael is giggling at Scully now too. Skull continues...

"He says, 'I've been trying to make friends with you since school started, but every time I say "Hi," you disappear into the woodwork.' Then he just grinned at me."

"What did you say, Weasel?" Michael asks, barely able to contain himself.

"I didn't say anything! I started to panic and was getting ready to split again but he grabbed me by my shoulder and said, 'Uh uh, little buddy, we've got invitations to deliver.' So I just nodded and he followed me around while I handed out the rest of the invitations."

"Har, har, har! Good for him!" Michael says. "He kept you from running away again." Scully just smiles, embarrassed, and nods his head.

"So, how did it go with the rest of the invitations?" I ask him.

"Great! The guys would read them, their eyes would light up and they would say 'neat-o' or 'kool' and say they would come for sure. Well, all but one guy who said he had to go somewhere with his parents. But he was pretty disappointed that he couldn't come too. Kyle didn't say anything, he just stood there and smiled while I handed out the invitations and answered questions. Later, a couple of the guys came up to me and asked if Kyle was going to be there. When I said he was they were pretty impressed that I'd asked the most popular boy in school. I think they were more impressed that Kyle would actually come to a geek's party."

Well of course it was high-fives all the way around. Scully's getting pretty good at belly bumping without giving us sore dicks.

"Skull," I say, "be sure and remind Kyle tomorrow to bring his gun and the two that Tyson said we could use. I already found out from Ty that they use the same CO2 cartridges that our own guns use. So we have fresh cartridges for everyone. Oh, and remind him about the masks, too."

I turn to Michael and say, "It's good we have enough paint-ball masks for all the kids, Mic. Are you sure there are enough to go around?"

"Well, let's see," Michael says, thinking out loud. "As far as masks go, we have mine, my Dad's, yours, Skull's, Kyle's - and Tyson said we could use his. That gives us six. That's enough for the junior members and the rest of us can get by with safety goggles, watchcaps and improvised face covers."

Scully and I nod our heads. That's good thinking. At least Scully's friends will have all the safety gear so no one can rag on us about that. We will go over all the rules with them and have them fire some practice rounds. I think things are going to work out just fine.

"Well," I say, "that's it, I suppose. Nothing left to do but wait for Saturday morning."

Potter's Field - Saturday, 08:30 hours:

The three of us show up early, lugging three duffle-bags full of gaming stuff and food. Man, I'm glad we will be portioning this stuff out to the troops: I wouldn't ever want to huff and puff this stuff up to the battlefield. It's pretty cool this morning and we can see our breath. I think we all look pretty spiffy in our field jackets (and patches) and our camo fatigues. Mic and I have applied olive and black face paint to look more soldier-like. I offered to do Scully up but he declined - he said we looked like something that fell out of a tree.

Scully is so antsy he's just dancing around. Michael keeps giggling at him and asking him if he needs to pee. Finally Skull says...

"If I feel the need, I'll just piss on this tree-looking thing standing next to me... har, har!"

Michael smacks him in the back of his head, cuz he can.

We sit down in the field, just a ways off the sidewalk and in view of everyone coming by. Well, Mic and I sit down, Scully's too involved in his nervous dance.

"Chill out, Skull," I tell him. "Jeepers, you give me the creeps, you little cum wad. Sit down and dance with your butt cheeks for a while."

"I can't help it, Jer. What if I say something dumb? What if I can't say anything at all? What... What..."

"You're going to 'what' yourself right into the twilight zone, you little bugger." Michael tells him. "You don't have to worry about anything. Jer and I will get things going and we will give you orders to do 'this and that'. All you have to do is follow our lead and you will do just fine. Now relax or I'll knock you the frig out and the troops can drag you up the hill," Michael giggles at him.

This seems to calm him down a bit. I guess just the thought that he won't have to ad lib stuff and impress people seems to mollify him. Pretty soon a stationwagon comes down the street, slows and then parks at the curb alongside of us. A kid, I would guess it's Kyle (because he looks like a smaller version of Tyson), hops out of the passenger side and waves. We wave back. He pops open the back door and drags out a pack that he slings over one shoulder. Then he reaches in and takes out three guns and a couple of face masks.

"Pssst, Skull. Go over and help the guy," I tell him.

"Oh right, yeah" he says and trots over to Kyle's side.

"Hi, Scully" Kyle says.

"Morning, Kyle. Let me give you a hand with that stuff." Scully takes a couple of the guns from his new bud.

"Scully, this is my Mom," Kyle says, pointing to the driver who is patiently sitting behind the wheel. "Mom, this is Scully Howe, the guy Ty and I have been telling you about."

Scully waves. Mrs. Samuels says, "Glad to meet you Scully. I hope you boys have a real fun time today. I gave Kyle my cell phone so that you guys could call someone if you have any kind of an emergency."

"Gosh, good thinking, Mrs. Samuels." Scully says. "Thank you for bringing Kyle, and please thank Tyson again for trusting us with his paint-ball guns. Tell him we will take real good care of them."

Mrs. Samuels just smiles back, nods and then slowly pulls away from the curb, heading down the street. Scull and Kyle walk over to Mic and me and we stand up.

"Kyle, this is my brother Jeremy and his friend - our friend - Michael."

"Hi, bud" Mic and I say and bump knuckles with the dude. I must say, this is one good-looking kid, just like Ty. His blond hair would be killer if he let it grow out a bit but, jock that he is, the hair must be kept short. The eyebrows are real dark though, quite a contrast to his hair. But his best feature has to be this set of dark-green eyes. Wow, I can see why Scully gets nervous talking to the kid... he is a knock-out. He stands about five or six inches taller that our Scully boy.

"Thanks for letting me come, you guys," Kyle says, staring me in the eyes with his cute green peepers, "I really appreciate it. I just love paint-ball." Kyle says this while putting his arm across Scully's shoulders. Skull is looking at him like he was a shepherd staring at the baby Jesus. Our boy is pretty much awestruck and in total hero-worshipping mode. I think if Kyle had asked him to climb a tree then Scully would have been up it so fast that his clothing would be scattered in the bottom branches. Michael is just giggling at him. I give Mic a nudge with my elbow.

"Ahmm... no thanks necessary, Kyle. We should be thanking you. Having another experienced person here means a lot. I suppose you got a gander at the sort of recruits we're going to be dealing with?"

Kyle looks down at Skull and starts chuckling. Scully hasn't stopped gazing at him. Cheeze, Skull, embarrass the kid, why don't ya? But Kyle seems immune to Scully's adoring gaze. I have a feeling he gets a lot of them at school. No wonder Scully says he usually has a bunch of guys hanging around him. I bet half of them would like to have their lips surgically attached to the kid's zipper. Hmmm... an operation I might consider myself. Then I feel Michael's elbow dig into my ribs. Whoops, I may have been staring a little hard. I give Michael a sheepish grin and get the arched eyebrows and head tilt in return.

Kyle breaks my pensive mood when he says...

"Yeah, Jeremy, I got the opportunity to check out the recruits while Scully was passing out the invites. They're not your average sort of kid, for sure. If you haven't met them yet, you'll see what I mean." he says, still chuckling at Scully.

Scully breaks his gaze away for the first time and looks kind of sheepishly towards Mic and me.

"What can I say?" he announces with a shrug of his shoulders, "I don't much care for average." He says this with a giant grin on his face.

Our discussion is soon cut short by a shout from the sidewalk about a hundred feet away. Three boys are walking this way and waving their arms. One of them had yelled out, "Hello, Scully. Hello, Kyle".

Our boys are waving back at them. Even from this distance I can see these guys are on the small side. Scully is just a little smaller than the average fifth grader but these guys look like fourth graders for sure. As they get closer I can make out their features a little better. Two of them have bright red hair - and I do mean bright! The other kid stands out even more than they do cuz he is totally bald, and I mean like a shiny, pink bowling ball. As they get close enough to make out their faces I can see that the redheads are pretty much carbon copies of each other; twins obviously. And their faces, man, they are a total collection of freckles! They have these thin, cute noses and reddish lips that are curved up into a smile. The other boy, the bald one, has thick blond eyebrows, a button nose and a mouth that's holding a sort of nervous grin on it. He looks kind of familiar, although I don't know why: I am sure I would remember seeing a bald kid before. The twins are wearing old, tan parkas and Levis. Mr. Baldy has a fatigue jacket and camo pants. I can see by the shoulder straps that all three are wearing backpacks. Good boys, they paid attention. By this time they have arrived and are standing just in front of us.

"Hey, guys," Scully says. "Hey," they all answer; the twins with a half wave.

Scully stands over next to them and points at Mic and me. He says...

"Guys, this is my brother, Sergeant Jeremy Howe. And this is our friend, Sergeant Michael Wist. And of course you know Corporal Kyle Samuels."

Kyle gives a half wave and I swear I can hear three collective sighs. Then Scully points to each of the new boys in turn.

"Guys," meaning Mic and me, "this is Scooter and Possum Hughes, and Marcus Smith."

"Marc, please!" Marcus adds. "My folks may have named me Marcus but that doesn't mean I have to use it." he says, grinning much deeper now.

"Har, har," Michael laughs. "I know what you mean, Marc. Jeremy here doesn't like to go by his given name either." I just look at Michael with my eyebrows in the air. What the hell is he talking about?

"What's your given name, Sergeant Jeremy?" Marc asks.

"Butthead!" Michael shouts. "Har, har, har!"

I just shake my head and look at Mic like it's beneath my dignity to respond. The twins are hiding giggles behind their hands, not very successfully however. Marc is chuckling. Kyle and Scully are going for the deep-throated "har, hars" along with my Mikey boy. I look closer at Marc and I can see that he isn't really bald, his head is just shaven. It's obvious he would have a thick head of hair if he let it grow out.

"So, Marc," I interrupt everyone's giggle-fest, "what's with the hair-do, dude? You aren't one of those leukemia kids, are ya?"

"Naw," he says, shaking his head and turning a bit pinkish in the cheeks. "I made the mistake of laughing at my older brother's shaved head and so he attacked me with a pair of dog shears. But it was worth it though for the way our Dad punished him. He made Sammy shave off his eyebrows and use a magic marker to draw on new ones as well as a mustache on himself. He looks hilarious." And the kid is cracking up by the time he's finished with his story. I just look over to Mic and his mouth is hanging open just like mine.

"Your last name is Smith and your older brother is named Sammy?" Michael asks him.

Marc nods his head yes. Me, Mic and Skull look at one another, astonishment on our faces. Oh my God! This is the kid brother of Sammy boy, the guy we tricked into shampooing his hair with glue!

"Har, har, har... snort, snort... har, har, har!" Four boys are on the ground, rolling in total mirth! Marc is just beaming, thinking he just told the joke of the century. I realize that Kyle is whooping it up with the rest of us. I'll bet his brother told him the whole story.

"Why the heck didn't you tell us, Scully?" Michael asks, after he gets some breath back.

"I didn't know. How the heck would I know? There have to be more than a couple of Smiths in this town, you know."

"Sorry about that, Marc," I say, looking up at him from where I am lying, "but we kind of heard the story about how your brother came by his new hairdo. He goes to our school."

"Oh, you guys know the dick-head, eh?" Marc asks. "Then let me say, right up front, I ain't nothin like like my bully-boy brother. For one thing, I'm way too short to bully anybody. And for another thing, I ain't a dick-head!" he grinningly tells us.

"Har, har, har!" We like this kid already. He'll do. He'll definitely do.

Michael looks over at the twins. "So what's your story, guys? How'd you get names like Scooter and Possum?"

Both the boys have been grinning, chortling and laughing from behind their hands just about since they got here. First they were laughing at Michael's butthead joke and then at Marc's rendition of brother troubles. One of the boys managed to quit giggling long enough to answer Michael.

"Well," he says, "Scooter here didn't take to walking very quick when we was babies. He preferred to just scoot around on his butt. And I got my nickname when I was five. I took this stray kitty into the kitchen and asked our Mamma if I could keep it. She just screamed and said, "that's a damned opossum. Throw that thing out the door before it bites you!" I got scared cuz Mamma was scared so I just dropped it on the floor. That possum ran over and latched itself onto Mamma's leg. She really started screaming then! She ran out the back door and didn't even bother to open the screen! She was running along the lawn, dragging a bunch of screen with her and then the possum decided he didn't like the ride anymore and dropped off. Mamma didn't stop though. She was too busy screaming to notice her passenger was gone and she just headed up the street. I stopped being scared when I saw my Daddy was laughing. He came into the kitchen when he heard Mamma yell. He was just laying on the kitchen floor cuz he was laughing so hard. And then he threw up!"

Oh my God!!! Every one of us, except Scooter and Possum, are lying on the ground in convulsions! I feel like Possum's Dad - I am about ready to throw up. Oh Jesus, help me!

I am still wiping the tears from my face when I hear a car door slam. I look towards the street to see a HumVee with its passenger door open. My God, that thing is all chrome and fancy paint. It's a real Yuppy's version of a Jeep. It looks like it's another one of Scully's munchkins that's climbing out of the monster vehicle. He reaches inside, grabs a G.I. issue backpack and pulls it out. Getting a rear view of him he appears to be wearing an expensive camo-colored parka and slacks. This causes me to sit up and pay notice. We distinctly mentioned in the invitation not to wear good clothing. Guess some kids just can't read. Those who aren't still convulsing on the ground are looking at the new arrival as well.

Skull's still having trouble catching his breath but he manages to blurt out...

"Oh, good. Here's Trevor. Marc calls him Richie-Rich; you'll soon see why. He's a nice guy, though."

The youngster is walking this way now and I can see that he is another blondie. He's about Scully's height and has nearly shoulder- length hair, very stylishly cut and brushed. He's tied a camo-colored scarf around his head like a commando sweatband. His cherubic features aren't marred a bit by an expensive looking pair of designer, metal-framed glasses. He has an open- mouthed grin that shows a set of teeth that are whiter than a new pair of underwear.

"Hello Scully, hello fellows" he says, stopping next to my supine brother. "Having a bit of a rest, are we?"

"Not really, Trevor, just laughing our butts off at Possum's story is all," Scully replies, getting to his feet.

"Trevor," Scully adds, "you know most of these guys from school. The two bigs ones with the tears on their cheeks are my brother Jeremy and our friend Michael. They're in Junior High and they're in charge here. Guys, this is Trevor ."

"Trevor Forbes-Elliott," he says, extending a hand to me, "pleased to make your acquaintance, Jeremy."

Oh my... God! A triple name? Is this kid for real? What got into Scully, inviting Mr.'la-di-da' here?

"Umm... pleased to make your acquaintance also, Trevor Forbes-Elliott" I say, reaching up to shake the proffered hand. He gives me a friendly nod and reaches towards Michael.

"A pleasure to make your acquaintance as well, Michael."

Michael's 'o' shaped mouth and arched eyebrows tells me he is as surprised by our new recruit as I am. But he reaches up and shakes hands with Mr. 'La-di-da'.

"Ahumm..." Michael commences, "those are some pretty fancy duds you're wearing there, Trevor. Didn't you read the part in the invitation about not wearing good clothes?"

Our young friend Marc gives a 'guffaw' as he heads over to Trevor's side.

"These are just old clothes for Richie-Rich, guys." he says, putting an arm across Trevor's shoulders. "His folks buy him new clothes instead of washing his dirty ones!" Marc says, smiling at a slightly blushing Trevor.

"Oh, not quite," the kid responds, "but they do tend to spoil me a bit. I'm not complaining, mind you."

Trevor looks down at his parka and raises his arms while saying...

"I got this wonderful camouflage coat just for this paint-ball expedition. It's bloody smashing isn't it?"

There's something funny about the way this kid talks. I can't quite place my finger on it - but he sorta reminds me of that Tony Blair guy I see on the news - you know, the King of England or something.

"Yeah," Marc replies. "And he bought me these camo pants too," he says, lifting his fatigue jacket to show us the pants.

Marc gives Trevor a light tap on the shoulder and says...

"It pays to have wealthy friends like Richie-Rich here."

Trevor adds, "And they look smashing on you as well, Marcus."

"Ain't this kid a pip?" Marc laughs, "he's British you know, and his parents are quite proper. But then, so's Richie; he wouldn't say shit if he was standing in it up to his neck."

All the boys burst out into giggles at this remark. Trevor just nods his head with that cherubic smile on his face. I guess all these guys know Trevor pretty well and aren't put off by his manners or his obvious wealth. If they all like the kid then I'll certainly put off any judgement. He's as cute as a puppy anyway.

Marc snickers and says...

"Richie here is a bit of a fashion plate too, guys. Show them your camouflage shirt, Richie."

Richie's grin is as big as the Cheshire Cat's as he unzips his pretentious parka to expose his... oh... my... God! He has a shirt in a camouflage pattern alright - at least the pattern is a bunch of leaves. But each leaf is a different color - red, blue, yellow, silver and every color God ever invented!

"Wow," Michael says, "that's a freaking glow-in-the-dark neon sign you're wearing, Richie. Har, har! You'll be about as hard to spot in the woods as a Las Vegas casino!"

"Do you think it's a bit much, then?" he asks, glancing worriedly at his cherished shirt.

"Nah..." I chuckle. "Don't worry about it, bud. It'll soon be painted a bunch of nice, muted colors. I guarantee you: you're one target that the worst shot here isn't going to miss!"

All the boys have gone from giggles to downright laughter by now. They take turns slapping Richie on the back and saying things like...

"Right-on, dude. Stand near me and draw fire away from me."

Marc, who is standing behind Trevor, reaches around the boy and wraps him in a big bear-hug. Hmm... I get the feeling that Marc likes this kid for more than his generous pockets. It's a really cute sight though and it gets me grinning. I look over to Michael and he's grinning and wiggling his eyebrows at me. I suppose he's thinking the same thing. Then I glance towards Scully to see if he's picking up on these vibrations. But Scully is busy staring up into Kyle's face with that damn awe-struck gaze. Kyle is looking down on our junior geek with a beatific smile of his own. Ah-ha, I think. Could our handsome Kyle have some hidden feelings about my baby bro? This day just gets more and more interesting.

I glance down at my wristwatch and see that is almost ten minutes to nine. We still have two more recruits we are expecting if they are all to show up. Just as I am about to question Scully about the missing boys we hear a piercing whistle from down the sidewalk. Walking towards us, coming the opposite direction from the twins, is another taller-sized lad. Short, black, kinky hair top off a chocolate brown complexion. This lad's heritage is immediately apparent and his appearance is accompanied by a shout from our twins.

"Yay, Tiger's here" the two boys shout simultaneously. They take off at a trot to meet their friend. Both boys grab onto the newcomer's hands and tug him, impatiently, towards the group. As he gets close it is apparent that his dark-colored skin isn't able to conceal some reddish, glowing cheeks. Methinks this kid is a wee bit embarrassed about being fussed over by our red-headed look-alikes. But his grin says he is at least pleased by the reception.

Scully is giggling and I can tell from this that he is pleased to see this new addition to our ranks. When the twins have pulled the newcomer into our group, Scully walks up to him and offers his hand. The new boy has to dislodge one of the twins in order to shake Skull's hand. As soon as the shake is over, the dislodged twin quickly re-attaches himself.

"Mic and Jer," Scully announces, "this is Timmy Jones, aka 'Tiger', and he is in the same classroom at school as me and the twins."

"Hi, Timmy," I say.

"Hiya, Tiger," from Michael.

"Hi guys," he responds, in a surprisingly deep voice.

"Which one is Jeremy?" he asks, looking towards Michael and me.

I wave my hand at him. He is standing there with his hands clasped tightly by Scooter and Possum. When he sees my hand wave he smiles at me and says...

"You sure have one shy little brother, Jeremy. This war thing is about the first time I've been able to get more than three words out of him," and he's looking towards Scully with a huge grin as he makes his pronouncement. Scully colors up like his normal Scully self. Then our boy grins and replies...

"It's kind of hard to talk to you, Timmy, when these two..." and he points to the twins, "are normally all wrapped around you and hogging your attention."

This elicits a fit of the giggles from the twins and then Scooter... or Possum (who the hell knows which one) says...

"He's your friend too, Scully. We'll share him with you."

This just seems to promote more giggles from the twinnies.

"Har, har har!" Michael is slapping his knee. "Well, dude," he says to Timmy, "you better grow a third hand, then, or Scully's pretty much left out in the cold."

At this, Timmy laughs, pulls his hands loose from the twins' grasp and walks over to Scully. He wraps his arms around our boy and, in a bear-hug grip, lifts him off his feet.

"Don't you worry, man," he says, looking towards Michael, still squeezing Scully, "if I need to, I'll slip a shoe off and one of these guys can hold my foot!"

This looks so strange. This kid is just a couple of inches shorter than Kyle; yet he has the shoulders of a line-backer and the voice to match. He's lifted Skull up in the air with as much ease as if he were swinging a pencil. I look over at Kyle and, for the first time since he got here, the smile has left his face. Wow, this is fascinating, I'm thinking. It actually appears that he is not very happy having to share Scully with this interloper. I look over towards Michael and see that he is busy smiling at our Scully. I give him a poke with my elbow and when I have his attention I nod my head in Kyle's direction. Michael looks at Kyle, then looks at Scully and Timmy and then back at Kyle again. Finally, he looks back towards me and gives me a shit-eating grin that says he's picked up on Kyle's emotional state as well.

By now the twins have migrated over towards Scully and his bear-hugger. Timmy has released our boy and they have a four-way conversation going. The twins are obviously trying to get Timmy's attention refocused on themselves. I look over at Marc and he and Trevor have their heads together, deep in some conversation. There also seems to be a bit of patting and other hand movements or else I am just seeing fairies in the wind.

Scully, having been edged out by the twins, makes his way back to Kyle's side. And Kyle, for his part, is back to his grinning self as he and Scully get into some mumbled conversation.

Cheeze, what is the deal here? I may not be the most perceptive guy in the world, and if there really is such a thing as gaydar, mine has always been in need of a tune-up. But I would have to be deaf, dumb and dead not to see the interplay going on here. Marc has an obvious thing going for his little Richie-Rich; and the twins tend to attach themselves to Timmy like magnets to a refrigerator door. That means the only unattached person in this group of invitees is Kyle. And isn't it convenient how this has all worked out to Scully's advantage?

"Skull," I yell out, "can I see you alone for a minute, please?"

Scully looks from me back up to Kyle with a look of concern on his face. He might think he is in trouble over something. He mumbles something to Kyle and then turns to me and says, "Coming, Jer."

He has that same look of concern when he walks up to me and asks, "What's up, Jer? Did I do something wrong?"

I just smile at him to show him he isn't in any trouble and he visibly relaxes. I nod my head towards the field and start walking away from the group. My little brother follows me. When we are safely out of anyone else's hearing range I turn to my little brother and ask him...

"Skull, would you have invited any of those guys over there if Kyle wasn't going to be on this outing?"

Scully gets this little half-smile and asks, "What do you mean, Jer?"

"I think you know what I mean, Skull. Is this the same group of boys you would have invited if you didn't know that Kyle was going to be here?"

My brother is glowing red now. He knows I have figured him out. He hems and haws a little and then he says...

"OK, OK. I guess you can tell that these guys already have some attachments going. I mean, Timmy and the Twins, and then there's Marc and Trevor..."

"Yeah, yeah, I see that," I tell him, "and if you were looking for potential friends, you sure wouldn't be choosing guys that already have an attachment, would you? So let me see if I can put two and two together here. You chose those guys because they wouldn't interfere in your desire to get to know Kyle, didn't you?" I asked this last question with a giant grin on my face. Scully just giggles and says...

"Guilty as charged, Jeremy. I once told you and Michael that there was no way you were going to hide things from me. Well, I can see that's a two-way street. You figured out my plan pretty quick - for a butt-head big brother. And, yeah, I had a completely different list of guys planned out until Kyle met me at school and offered to hand out the invitations. He just seemed a little too nice to me and interested in me and stuff. Well, I really wanted to give this every chance I could, so, I picked out guys that would leave Kyle the hell alone. And, believe me, my head was spinning like crazy trying to think of the right guys to invite on such short notice."

Scully looked back towards the group. I turn my head and look too. Everyone is absorbed in conversation and enjoying the company they are with. Michael is talking to Kyle who keeps looking in our direction. I think Kyle is concerned that Scully might be in some kind of trouble.

"Anyway," Skull says, looking back at me, "I think everything is working out pretty well, considering I threw the invitation list together on the spur of the moment."

I started chuckling. I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: my little brother is a genius. And I really mean it when I say I don't ever want to get this kid pissed off at me. Uh-uh. No thank you, buddy! And then I had a thought and asked...

"But what about that thing with Timmy and his bear hug. It looks to me like he has a thing for you as well as the twins."

"Nah," Scully says, "Timmy is always doing stuff to make those two jealous. It just makes them wrap themselves around him that much harder, and that's what he wants."

I just shake my head at him in wonderment. Then I ask...

"Where is your last guest, Skull? It's after nine now and the last guy hasn't shown up."

"There isn't going to be another guest, bro. I changed the date on one of the invitations to next Saturday while Kyle wasn't watching."

"Why'd you do that?" I ask him.

"Well, picking a threesome like Timmy and the twins meant someone got left out. So, I figured if nothing works out with Kyle then this other cute guy will be showing up next weekend. I figured I could get you and Mic to feel sorry for me and schedule another paint-ball fight between the four of us." He tells me this with a big-assed grin on his face.

"God, Scully," I'm laughing, "you're unbelievable! Well, you and Corporal Samuels get your rag-tag army together. We've got guns and ammo to pass out with a bunch of food and stuff. Let's get this show on the road!"

"Yes sir, Sergeant sir!" And I get a snappy salute.

Next chapter... a paint-ball battle to end all battles. Balls are going to be flying and perhaps soaking in the pool as well... heheheh! Our new recruits get to know one another.

Don't forget to call me up and breath heavy on my phone - or at least send me an email.

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