Kevin transferred to our school from California in the Venice/Santa Monica area. The first thing I noticed about him was how he had those chiseled good looks that made me think of Keanu Reeves a lot. He was more buffed than most of the guys in our school and filled the tee shirt well enough that you just knew he was the guy you wanted on your team.
He had the muscles of a light heavy weight wrestler or a dedicated swimmer. Not that our guys were a bunch of pantywaists. I mean, in a town like Thermal, Wyoming, about half the students come from the surrounding farms and ranches. That means there weren't too many marshmallows in the student body.
This guy had no fancy globs of muscle like exclusive weight lifters and pretty-boy body builders get, no way. His body was just plain functional. Since I was, and am, a serious athlete, I checked him out pretty close. He stood about six one or two, weighed in at close to one eighty-five and had a deep chest. It was almost like describing me except I'm only six feet tall and I sure as hell don't have looks that would put anyone in mind of Keanu Reeves. With my dishwater blond hair and what Dad calls "cow pie features," I am nobody's pretty boy. I do okay socially, but that's about all.
As we approached each other he looked down and saw my X-men carrying case. It would be hard to miss, what with the Great Green Hulk bursting out of a blast of blazing light and coming right at you. I had painted it on the vinyl case myself and I was justifiably proud of it. I'm a serious painter with a lot more than average talent. It held my charcoals, pastels and two rolled up ink drawings to be turned in to my art teacher, Miss Melton. He smiled at me and said, "That's a great illustration. Did you do it yourself or did you have a professional do it for you? That green glows."
"Oh, hi, thanks." I answered him, "I'm Andy Phillips." I stuck out my hand and he shook it with a strong, friendly up-and-down-three-times motion and let go. "Naw, I did this one the other night when I got my homework done early."
"I'm Kevin Newman and that's Bullshit." he said. "Getting that shade for the hulk's skin tone and the graduated shades of ochre behind it took a lot of time. They didn't just mix themselves together. Then the way you use your blues to fill in the background and the transparent crimson lake you washed the clouds had to take hours. Don't kid a kidder or try to bullshit a fellow artist. You have a great eye for color and form. What else have you done?"
"Oh, I have a few canvases at home, including one in progress for the State Art Festival. I plan to enter it in the adult competition. It's an eagle feeding her young."
"No shit. I'd like to see it." He paused and then added, "Well, some time or other." He acted like he was afraid of being too pushy. I liked that. I'm a pretty private kind of guy. I was then, too.
I had no regular girlfriend right then because all of the girls in our school were so into that new TV series, "Vajina The Zombie Killer." They were competing to see who could look the most naked, like Vajina, without getting suspended. I got a kick out of the storyline, myself. But I couldn't get all creamy and dreamy like they did. I mean, look at her build. Her muscles had absolutely no tone. She couldn't lift a hundred pounds in real life and she's kicking ass on a bunch of near indestructible immortals? No way. No flaking way.
When it came to musculature, even then I considered myself an authority, and rightly so. I worked out and I worked my butt hard. Northern Tai chi, swimming, running, bicycling the hills kept me lean, mean and supple as a green willow branch. My dream was to compete in the Iron Man Decathlon. I knew I couldn't end up in the money, the first three. I mean when the fifth place man last year was a real old dude of forty-six who races bikes up and down mountain roads for fifty miles, never stopping and never slowing down, I'd be lucky to even qualify. Those dudes were real men.
Any way, being a normal guy, I ate up all this appreciation of my true worth as an artist. "Come on over after class. I just live across the street."
"I know," he said. That struck me as being a little odd. I mean here I just met the guy and he knows where I live? I shrugged it off and we headed for class. Maybe he saw me as I left the house for class or something.
We sat next to each other through boring calculus and were out the door as soon as the bell sounded. Next period was free time and we were supposed to stay on campus, but since I lived right across the street, nothing was ever said when I slipped over to the house for something. We hurried on over to my house and I led him straight to my room.
When I opened the door to my room, he almost had a hernia. My three networked computers were state of the art. The Compaq logo and the MSI labels were hard to miss. Then to one side was an almost new IBM that had been a throwaway from a Government upgrading. Some times the government throws away better stuff than most people ever get to use. My fax-scanner and printer weren't all that bad, but they looked like poor relatives at a rich uncle's party.
"Hell, man. What's the deal, are your folks rich or what?" A little envy showed as he ran his hands over the keyboards and the finger mouse. "I never saw so much good stuff all together. What gives?" He looked like he was going to have a nervous breakdown unless I answered him.
"Aw, it's no big deal, not really. My Uncle Wayne is in computer sales and engineering. Everything here either came from some big multinational that was upgrading and converting or a government agency that had too much money at the end of the fiscal year." I proudly showed him the FBI logo that someone had neglected to scrape off. I thought it added a certain mystique to my possessions. "Most of it came in pieces. I reassembled, tested and changed out parts until I got something that worked. Some times I raid the dumpsters behind the computer store and get some real great stuff."
He grinned sadly, "I'm making do with an old Packard-Bell right now."
"No way." I exclaimed.
"Way, dude." he answered.
"Well, hey, bring it over here and let me look through my junk. I bet I got enough stuff for an upgrade. What kind of tower you got?"
"Tower? I don't know. A high one?" He vaguely brought his hands a couple of feet off the floor.
"I think I know about what it is. It'll work. Bring it over after school and we'll upgrade out of junk parts I got laying around." My "junk parts," were mostly near new that I had carefully taken from units that had been usually well maintained by whatever agency owned them before I got my hands on them. Everything got torn down, the useable parts were tagged and the rest dumped. Uncle Wayne sends his only nephew, his youngest sister's only son a unit about every three to six months.
"You're not kidding, are you?" He asked in amazement.
"Out here in th' wild and wooly west, folks is neighborly, pilgrim." I told him in my best John Wayne voice.
"Oh wow. I'll tell my mom and get her okay to stay out past my curfew." Curfew? I thought that sounded a little strange, but I didn't say anything and he didn't explain. I did think he was one of the most emotional acting guys I ever met.
"Well, just stay the night if it's okay, I got twin beds and you can flake out on one and I'll take the other. We'll just go over and get your unit and bring it over and make it like new." I liked the idea that I would have another computer to explore. I also liked the idea of a new friend who looked like he might have in interest in bodybuilding approaching my own, and it was nice to maybe have someone as a friend who appreciated art and didn't think about a new coat of paint on the walls when he used the word "painting."
Then he saw my wild life oils. He didn't say a word; he just looked. He had tears in his eyes, as he looked at the one of a mamma bear curled up and cuddling her cub. "Jesus, Man. Why are you wasting your talent on X-Men when you can do something like this? Oh man, this talks to me, it really does."
"Well, to start with, I collect Marvel and other comics. I dig the X-Men and the X-Files. So as far as I'm concerned, as long as it's what I want to do it's no waste." That remark kind of pissed me off.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like it sounded. It's just that you are the first guy I ever met who is as good as I am." Now that would have sounded like pure arrogance coming from a lot of guys. But I had a hunch he was just saying what he honestly believed to be true.
"Aw, that's all right, but people are always putting down my comic collecting and telling me stuff about how I ought to do this and that when they can't even draw a crooked line."
He looked at my charcoals and a pastel I had done of one of the girls at school. I was going to give it to her just before she began looking for my owner's manual. When she began to try to rearrange my life so she could take it over I dropped her. The picture just hung there. I had decided that some day I was going to toss it. I just hadn't got around to it yet at that time.
"You are good enough to hold a showing. You know that?" he asked me.
I laughed, "Nobody around here would pay enough for a picture for me to even think of anything like that."
"Anyway, you are already a pro. I know quality when I see it." Just then we heard the warning buzzer and hurried back across the street.
"Just hold it there, fellas." a voice greeted us as we came through the front entrance of the school. I looked at where the voice was coming from. Mister Feldman stepped out of a darkened classroom. "I've been waiting for you two. Since you live across the street, we've pretty much let you come and go. But when you start taking friends with you like this one, maybe we better start sniffing your breaths"
Now he and I have never really been friendly, but he never tried to rag on me like this before. "Look, you got a problem with me, just say so or get off my back. If the problem is too big, I'll go get my dad and we can settle it either here, in court or just you and me in a back alley. You choose."
Mister Feldman had been in the marines and he thought that made him a hot shot. His first week here, he heard that I practiced Northern tai chi and challenged me to a "friendly" demonstration of his abilities. I kicked his ass royally. He learned that the difference between karate and tai chi was the difference between a German shepherd and a pit bull. I was the pit bull. We never spoke much to each other after that. I didn't know what his problem was, but I did know that I would not take any of his crap, vice principal or not.
"No, I think that from now on you will not be allowed to leave the school grounds until after the last class. Do I make myself clear?" He sneered at both of us.
"No, you did not make yourself clear," I told him. "So you better explain what you mean or just butt out of my life. You're a loud mouth and a bully and I don't like you. Do I make myself clear?"
"Good. You are suspended. Both of you. Get out." His face was white with rage. I guess he wasn't used to having students dis him like that. But I have never liked being bullied, especially by jerks.
"Come on," I said to my new friend and headed toward the office.
"Hey. I told you to get off the school grounds." He almost screeched at us. His face was red with rage.
"Sorry, dude, I'm going to the office. Now you want to try to stop me a second time?" I grinned at him and waited.
"Maybe we better do as he says," Kevin told me. He took hold of my arm and tried to pull me toward the door but I was centered. Basically what that means in martial arts is that my center of gravity was one with the Earth. I didn't budge.
"Naw, I don't think so. Our friend here was a real marine. He tried to impress us with his martial arts and I whipped him and didn't even muss my hair and he's pissed." I gave Mister Feldman a look that was total disrespect.
"By God. I don't have to take that from some queer." He started at me and I dropped into a ready stance and waited. I was grinning. He had called me a queer. I was going to have his ass for lunch.
He tried a side sweep and I bitch slapped him. Mister Corbin had come out of his office just as his assistant went down. He had seen the attempted side sweep and the landing on his ass of Feldman. "Stop this." he commanded.
Feldman got to his feet and blustered, "Next time."
"There will be no next time." Mister Corbin was trying to defuse a situation that I was not going to let go of.
"There will be a next time," I argued. "He will try to sneak up and catch me by surprise. And when he does I promise you I'll send him to the hospital. He's a loud mouthed punk."
"What is this all about?" Corbin asked. "You have never ever been in a fight before that I know of. Just what exactly happened?"
"It was nothing," Kevin said.
"The hell it wasn't. I contradicted him.
"First this ass hole accuses me of drinking," I said.
"I did not." Feldman denied.
"You sure as hell did. You said you wanted to check our breaths. Remember?"
Mister Corbin gasped and started to choke.
"Then you called me a queer, or did you forget that too?" My voice was getting louder and louder. Students were all gathering.
"Let's take this into the office," Mister Corbin said.
"Fine," I said in a loud voice, "But I want everyone here to hear me say that this is one queer that is going to beat the shit out of Feldman the Fag if he ever lays another hand on me."
I turned and led the way to the office. "Oh my god." Kevin moaned. "My mom is going to kill me."
I walked behind the counter in the school office and right into Mister Corbin's office. This was the first time I had ever been inside it. As soon as we were all in and Mister Corbin closed the door, I said, "I am going to ask my dad to sue the school district, and both of you. He will, too, probably. My dad knows I don't lie and he and I are very close."
"What if I prove it?" Feldman asked in a nasty voice.
"You dumb shit. If you could prove I'm a queer, then I nail your ass for sexual harassment. My dad collects enough money to send me to college. If you don't prove it, then I nail your butt again. This is what my dad calls a "win, win for me and a sorry Charlie" for you. Either way you're toast and the town pays for my college. I got a ton of witnesses out there in the hallways.
"How can we settle this without your father becoming involved?" Mister Corbin asked.
"Fire him," I answered. "He should have never been hired in the first place."
Mister Corbin looked at Feldman and asked, "Well?"
"Hey. I have a contract here. If you think you are just going to dump me, you have another think coming. Especially over two fairies." The man looked like he was going to explode.
Ever the bureaucrat's bureaucrat, Mister Corbin said, "Thank you. With that statement you just solved a thorny problem for me. As of this second, you are on indefinite leave. Your final check will be forwarded to your home address. You will not be called back. You have your choice of quitting or to face a hearing. Good day."
He turned to the two of us and asked, "Does that satisfy you?"
Kevin politely said, "Yes sir."
I said, "yes sir, for now."
Mister Corbin asked, "What do you mean, 'for now'?"
"If he comes back it's going to be like we never had this conversation. My dad sues." I nodded my head in agreement with myself and Kevin sort of moaned.
Mister Corbin said something about my thinking like a lawyer already. Feldman stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind him. As my uncle Bob says when he's trying to sound rustic, "Well, the buttered side of his bread just landed on the floor."
"Perhaps you two should go to whatever class you have to go to." Mister Corbin told me and we trooped out.
"Jesus, man. You can't go around fighting people like that all the time."
"Yes I can," I told him. "I won't back down from punks like him. I don't have to. They leave me alone and I leave them alone or else."
"You are something else." he told me in an admiring tone of voice. "I could never buck heads with people like that." There again was that something in his voice that somehow sounded off key.
By then we were in front of the history class so we went in and sat. Everyone turned and looked at us. I hate that when it happens. I don't like to have special attention thrown my way unless it's because I did an intercept, pinned the other dude's shoulders to the mat or did something that was worth attention getting. But to be accused of being a homo was just bad. Then it's just plain embarrassing. My mom will say something like, "Remember, Andy, 'Sticks and stones..." If you're not guilty, then it just doesn't matter." But she never understood about things like this.
My dad will always ask, "Did you get in a fight, over it son?" It doesn't matter what "it" is, he'll always ask in a reproving voice, did you get in a fight, son?" Then in the same breath, he'll ask, "Did you lose?" Dad doesn't believe in violence. But he doesn't believe in losing even more so. To my dad there are "us winners" and then there are "all those other people."
Anyway. We sat there and endured the stares. Then the ones who saw what happened between Feldman and me told about me laying one up the side of his head. And I went from being a suspected fag to being a hero. Kevin was a sort of unknown quantity and I was the only one he had anything to do with in school so far. So, since I was "way cool." it was pretty much dropped and became a dead issue.
We went over to my house as soon as the last class let out and got in the old beater my dad let me have. It was almost an antique, actually. It was a forty-nine Ford Custom Convertible. Dad got it in part payment for keeping a guy out of prison that I felt should have gone for sure. I got the car with the understanding of no drinking, no sex in the car yakety yak yak. Since I was dating only one girl who put out regularly, that was a promise easy to keep. (We brought along a blanket.)