Bunch of teens sitting around a bon-fire. Family reunion, Summer in the Catskills. Everything is full and flush with green. The fire’s over smoking, boy scout built. Nate stoops and rattles off factoids as he piles to many logs, reexplains how to make dump cake, and then sets to sharpening a stick with a pocket knife. He and Freddie are cousins. Ben is there. And Jake. Tommy, and some kid name Lucious, who goes by 3-Oh because he wants to be an “artist who can really make a difference some day”.
“So Freddie, any new girl friends?” Jake calls to his second cousin, his grin tilted charmingly as he snatches the pocket knife from Nate and opens a bottle of Coke. 3-Oh laughs. Freddie crosses his chubby legs.
“Frederick” he says leaning girlishly forward hands placed gently on his knees. He extends a poised hand and feigns fixing his hairline. “Girl, you know that ain’t happening.” Nate looks up, just a week out of VBS. Jake rolls his eyes and scoffs.
“You’re such a homophobe,” Freddie says, walking to the cooler to grab a diet Sprite.
“Maybe you should like, join the football team or something, you could make friends if you tried,” Tommy said. Freddie took a sip of Sprite and stared a Tommy like he might a scoreboard- confused and disinterested.
“I am not a homophobe just because I think you’re ridiculous.” Jake said.
“Bullshit, we all know the family is so proud of their super-straight football star.” Freddie said.
“What, is it that time of the month? Would you relax? Jesus.”
“Prove it.” Freddie said.
“Prove you’re not a homophobe.” Freddie took another sip and crossed his arms. “Kiss Ben.”
Ben had been sitting quietly on the log beside Freddie. Sipping a Dr. Pepper and keeping to himself. The other boys had barely said two words to him.
“What is he like your boyfriend?” Jake said with disdain.
“No.” Ben said. “Frederick is just a close friend, I go to an LGBT youth program with him.”
“So you are a butt-pirate?” 3-Oh chimed in, finding himself hilarious. Freddie got up and stomped back up the small hill to the cabin.
“Alright, don’t be a dick about it,” Jake said, 3-Oh’s smile falling.
“I’m not sure,” Ben said. “But it doesn’t hurt to think about it. To wonder.”
“I’d rather wonder then know for sure,” Tommy said, shaving the edge of his shorts with a metal bottle cap.
Aunt Judy’s voice reached out from the cabin, hollering for the boys to come inside immediately. Freddie stood beside her.
“Shit. Judy fucking hates me.” The other boys scrambled back to the cabin, Nate doused the fire, leaving Ben and Jake standing alone in the dark by the water’s edge. The fire hissing and sputtering.
“Jake!” she shouted, she had a zero-tolerance policy for bullies, and disrespect, and by now the other boys had pinned everything on him, and Freddie was crying and pouting while tugging on his favorite Aunt’s apron strings.
Jake glanced to his left. The glint of cherry red metal caught his eye in the porchlight. His Uncle Terry’s red ’59 camaro sat parked on the hill, nose pointed for the beach about four miles South.
“Come with me,” Jake turned to Ben.
“Wait, what?” Ben said.
Jake grabbed Ben’s hand and they took off running for the car.
“I’m already going to be in so much fucking trouble. Terry keeps the keys in the glovebox, he thinks no one knows.”
“Why do you want me to come?” Ben said, running out of breath.
“Don’t flatter yourself, I need you to help me push if the car breaks down. Wanna drive?” Jake flashed Ben a crooked smile that belonged on a poster over some tween girls’ bed. In that moment is worked on him too.
“Let’s go to the fucking beach!” he said.
Week 4 – Flash Fiction Challenge