Chapter Three – Boys Being Boys

Danny, Peter, and I got into a lot of trouble together the next eighteen months. One of our favorite activities was to play in the creek at the edge of the neighborhood. There we would search for frogs, snakes, or other wild creatures we could bring home as new pets. Our mothers didn’t like it when we brought home the animals, and we would be sent back to the creek to release them back into the wild.

That summer was a special one. It was the year that our nation was celebrating the Bicentennial. We had large parades and amazing fireworks displays in the park. We learned about the Revolutionary war and patriotism. We were told how much of a privilege it was to live in a country with so much freedom.

We also loved participating in the huge neighborhood games such as capture the flag, flag football, or baseball that would fill two or three front lawns with children playing together. When it got hot outside our games would turn into massive water fights—and nobody was safe from those battles.

A cool summer morning about a dozen boys had already gathered at my house to decide what we were going to play for the day. We argued for a while, but finally Peter’s older brother, Rick, suggested we play a new game that he learned about in school.

“Let’s play Smear the Queer,” he said.

The older kids all agreed, but Peter, Danny, and I had never heard of the game. It sounded a little dangerous.

“What we do,” Rob said, “is throw around the ball. If the ball is thrown to you, you have to catch it. If you drop it, you are queer, and we tackle you.”

“But if you are holding the ball, you are queer, too,” he added. “You have to pass the ball to somebody else before you get tackled.”

We threw the ball around for about thirty minutes. I would immediately pass the ball to somebody else before I got called a queer and tackled. The older boys enjoyed beating each other up and laughing about them being queer. It was sort of fun, as long as I wasn’t the one being beaten in the game.

The week before we all started Kindergarten, we decided that we wanted to build a clubhouse where the three of us could just get away. Danny said he had the perfect place behind his house, and so we gathered our tools and trekked to his place.

“Here’s where it will be,” he said as we looked over a big patch of dirt behind his garage.

“There aren’t any trees,” I said. “I want a tree house.”

“I have a better idea,” Danny said. “We can live underground. We can dig tunnels.”

That sounded like a great idea. We found what we could to start digging—one shovel, a hoe, and a rake. The ground was especially hard, and we weren’t making very much progress.

“We need a jackhammer,” Peter said.

“I have an idea,” Danny said.

He left and returned with a garden hose that was spraying water. The ground was getting softer as the dirt turned into mud. Our digging became more productive as our holes filled with water and became larger.

“We should all live here together when we are old,” Danny said.

“That would be so neat,” Peter agreed.

We decided we could make three big underground bedrooms connected by tunnels. It would be so great to live together forever with my best friends, but I thought there could be a problem.

“What happens when we get married?” I asked.

“I’m never going to marry a stupid girl,” Danny said. “I want to marry a boy. Boys are more fun.”

“Me, too,” Peter agreed.

That idea seemed a little strange to me at the time. After all, all of the married couples I knew about consisted of a man and a woman. My mom and dad. My grandparents. My aunts and uncles. Even my cousin who just got married.

“Can two boys get married?” I asked.

“Why not?” Peter said. “If they like each other, they should.”

“Yeah,” Danny added. “It’s a free country, isn’t it?”

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M. McMann

I am a writer, an artist, an athlete, a brother. I have the crazy dream of making my part of the world a better place. I like to do kind things in secret and observe the joy I bring into other people's lives. I can't stand seeing others being treated unjustly. I hate the direction our government is taking this country. Since when did taking care of those who can't take care of themselves become evil? Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity, and I think we all appreciate when someone else has offered to lift us up. I am your neighbor. I am Mystery McMann.

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