The Rainboy’s Family –  Chapter Five: The Ugly Duckling

By Ruwen Rouhs


Intro

“Hey Broder, do you remember the story of the ugly duckling? It’s from a Danish poet. His name is Anderson or Andersen.” Adam was asking Broder, when his adoptive father came home worn out by work. “You really don’t remember?” “Is this again one of the funny ideas of your favorite teacher Miss Myers? Did she ask you this time to interpret a fairy tale of a writer dead for more than a hundred years?”

“It’s relevant today Broder! Didn’t you pick me up, me a dirty boy in rags, me a kid who was down and out? And now?” Adam rose to his tiptoes, spread his arms like a swan spreads his wings. After a bow he attempted to do a pirouette and then grinned, “And now Broder? I am as beautiful as a swan, thanks to you!” “Don’t overdo it! You would even be a likeable kid in rags, Adam! I just provided some new clothes!”

“But Broder the story has more to it! I’ll read a passage to you,” but the poor duckling, who had crept out of his shell last of all, and looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not only by the ducks, but by all the poultry.” Pausing for a breath, “So it went on from day to day till it got worse and worse. The poor duckling was driven about by everyone; even his brothers and sisters were unkind to him, and would say, “Ah, you ugly creature, I wish the cat would get you,” and his mother said she wished he had never been born. The ducks pecked him, the chickens beat him, and the girl who fed the poultry kicked him with her feet. So, at last he ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew over the palings.”

“Now I remember Adam! But in this story nature got her way. The scorned duckling, ugly and disagreeable to look at, turned into a graceful and beautiful swan! Do you think that can happen to humans also?”

“Remember Broder it worked in my case and I’ll bet you anything. It works if we all try hard enough!”

*.*.*

Events remembered by Adam, have the heading ‘ADAM’,.those remembered by Broder, are headed ‘BRODER’:.

BRODER:

“Could you please close the door, Vic?” Broder called out to Adam’s friend standing in the open door, because a blast of chilly evening air sprayed small droplets of rain through the open window into his room.

“Sorry Broder!” carrying on without stopping, Vic shouted to Adam, “Have you opened your mail, the one with the attachment? Have you viewed the video clip? Have you seen it?” While Adam booted his PC, Vic just couldn’t stop shouting, his face contorted by outrage and disgust. “They did it! They stole our banner! They plastered up our flag with paint-balls. They incinerated our banner!” “Who stole our banner, the banner of the Weird Varans? Who, who did this&….?

The PC was finally booted! Anxious to know Vic’s outrage Adam opened the mail. In capital letters the message read in blood-red:

VENGEANCE IS OURS! WE WILL REPAY!
Judge Cal & Judge McTighe

“Who in heaven is Judge Cal? Who is Judge McTighe? Adam asked, trying to download the attachment

The shocked voices of Adam and Vic prompted Broder to start for his adoptee’s room, when the phone bell nailed him down, “Adam, Adam did you get the mail also, the outrageous email?” Pete’s exited voice threatened to break Broder’s eardrum. Muttering, “I will get Adam for you! Pete, calm down.” Broder crossed the small corridor and arrived at the two friends, just when the film clip began flickering across the screen.

The first take of the video was silent. It showed only a small, shrub covered clearing surrounded by tall beech trees. In the center, the remnants of a dead oak aiming one single scrawny branch skywards beside a small lake. This naked arm served as flagpole for a bright banner, the banner of the Jugger team “The Weird Varans”.

On the second, also silent take, two men in black with black masks set foot onto the clearing, carrying paintball rifles with big hoppers and high-pressure tanks. Immediately they began to fire round after round of paintballs towards the banner. When the first rounds hit the bright red banner with the speckled Giant Varan, the banner tried to escape by flying into the air. However, with every hit more it became heavier and heavier because of the paint. In the end it dangled lifeless from the skeleton-like branch like a torn-up sail of a shipwreck covered all over with red and black stains.

On the third take the two men in black did a war dance around the ruined banner, then sprayed it with a clear liquid and finally incinerated it. When the flag was a single yellow flash, the two black men showed the victory sign shouting with triumphant voices raising the right arm to the Nazi salute shouting: “Hail! Hail to our people! The victory is yours! Burn Weird Varans, Burn! Burn! Burn! Burn!” Then they spun around, exposed their white asses and mooned into the camera, “Shitty little mother fuckers! Fucking dirty faggots! Burn, burn, burn!” and continued their war dance till only charred shreds were left of the bright banner.

All were in shock, in shock because of the assault on their identity as the Weird Varans, on their identity as innocent friends and lovers, on their identity as humans. Broder was in shock as well as Adam and Vic. While the two teens burned up with anger, Broder got deathly cold with rage. “These bloody idiots! These homophobic cretins!” With his face crimson in anger, he clenched his fist as if to squash them like bugs.Then all went silent; Pete’s voice sounded via the speaker of the phone “Hi, hi there, anybody there? What the matter? Are you there Broder? Adam, are you there?”

“We just saw the clip, the clip of Judge Cal and Judge McTighe! Did you call us up because of this outrageous insult?” Broder was the first to ask. Then Adam took the phone, “Those morons have insulted us! You and Tru, me and Vic, all of us, all our friends, all of the Weird Varans!” and Vic joined in, “Revenge! We have to take revenge. Do you know these fuckers?”

*.*.*

ADAM:

During mid-morning break all members of the Weird Varans gathered under the old elm tree in the corner at the very edge of the schoolyard. Leaning against the big tree, Pete was holding Tru tightly pressed to his body. The other members of the Weird Varans were grouped around: Adam and Vic, Mel and Sue Ellen, the twins Randy and Thomas as well as the other freshmen and their sophomore friends Hakan, Jake, Kev and Mike.

The telephone tree Pete had initiated after his consultation with Adam and Vic was now completely expendable. All of them had gotten the e-mail the evening before and all of them had a bad night. Although Pete was the founder and undisputed boss of the Weird Varans, Mel was leading the discussion. She tried hard to calm down the heated exchange, “Stay cool! Please stay cool. All of you! First, we have to find out who is hiding behind the masks of Judge Cal and Judge McTighe. Has anyone recognized one of the offenders despite their disguise?”

“No, but they are students, they are not adults! I bet!” Randy interposed and Thomas supported his brother, “They shouldn’t be much older than Jake and Kev!” “Don’t you dare to suspect us, Thomas!” with that Jake tried to seize the small freshman by the collar. A sharp “Hey!” stopped this action. All heads turned to the newcomer. It was Tiger, Thore Igerssen, the PE-teacher, a short wiry fellow. He was a veteran teacher of the school but fit as a fiddle. Not a single student could imagine the school without him. He seemed to be the perpetual part of the school even more than the buildings, the gym or the cafeteria. Tiger had never been married but was constantly flirting with the teenaged girls or younger female teachers. Secretly however Tiger had an unending crush on athletic male students. In every age group he had his favorites, calling them “sons” instead using their names. Pete was one of his favorites.

“I don’t want to disturb your discussions!” he interrupted the quarrel, giving a smile to Pete, “I have to have a word with you son, later on.” Then he addressed Mel, “You mentioned two strange names young lady. Did you say Judge Cal and Judge McTighe or J. Cal and J. McTighe? Did I hear right? “Yep!” Hakan answered and Mel asked, “Do you know them?” “No! I may have heard these names before but in another context.” Winking at Mel, “Can you let an old man in to the secret, dear Mel? Remember I am already rickety and Alzheimer’s disease is just around the corner!”  “What corner?” Adam joked, checking the buildings, but Tiger pressed on, “You got problems? Right! Go on, tell me! Is it because of Judge Cal and Judge McTighe?”

Mel and Adam let Tiger in on the video clip and the threats. Tiger was alarmed. Frowning he turned to Pete, “Hey son, come to my office and show me the clip. I have to discuss the next football match with you, anyway! You must help me out son, because the quarterback of the junior team has a strained a muscle. It’s only you Pete, who could adequately substitute for him.”

In the office, Tiger downloaded the clip using Pete’s e-mail account. After watching the clip two times, the veteran PE-teacher eyes sparked with anger. “Bloody bastards! Bloody bastards! Nazis! Stupid supremacists!” He muttered between gritted teeth. With furrowed brow he began brooding on the clip. Finally, he turned to Pete, “Son!” giving him a level look, “Son, now I remembered. Judge Cal and Judge McTighe are characters of the British comic called Judge Joe Dredd. The uniformed “Judges” in this science fiction comic combine the powers of police, judge, jury and executioner. They are empowered to arrest, sentence and even execute criminals on the spot.”

“But we are no criminals, Tiger, eh Mr. Igerssen! We are the Weird Varans! Why do these bastards hate us? Why do they threaten us?” “You belong to the good ones my son, you and all your friends, Mel and Sue Ellen, Adam and Vic, the twins and all others.” With that the wiry old PE-teacher put an arm across the large teen’s shoulder to comfort the shocked freshman.

At the first moment Pete shied away but when Tiger told him with solemn voice, “You belong to the goods ones Pete, my boy, you and your boyfriend Tru, the little angel!” the worried teen leaned in and regained his strength. “Give me a day or two, my son. I have to check out the background. Tell the other Varans not to worry and not decide for a premature action. See to it son that the Jugger-meeting this week takes place as intended. I will attend the games and on Saturday, if youcan help out in the junior’s football team.”

*.*.*

BRODER:

At pWpS the secretary called Broder to the phone, “It’s urgent Mr. Ryder, it’s Oakville High, it’s Adam’s PE teacher!”

Broder snapped the receiver out of her hand, “Hello! This is Broder Ryder. Is something wrong with my son, Mister&…&…..? Did Adam have an accident?” “No, Adam is fine!” then reluctantly, “But it’s urgent. We have to deal with a problem as soon as possible, with the “Judges”, the boys calling oneself “Judge J. Cal” and “Judge C. McTighe”. I have to talk to you face to face! Could we meet during the lunch hour in the Coffee shop opposite the school?”

Two hours later Broder nervously searched the small coffee shop for an athletic PE-teacher. The only guest in the coffee was a small wiry man with clipped gray hair talking busily in a cell phone.  He waved Broder nearer. “Mr. Ryder? Glad you could make it. I am Thore Igerssen! Remember me?” When Broder looked blank, he continued “Sit down son! You are the first one I want to bring into the secret.”

Now it dawned on Broder “Thore Igerssen? We called you Tiger, not &….” “All students call me by this nickname, for more than 30 years.” He smiled, then he got serious, “I decided to let you in on the secret, first because you were one of my first students in Oakville High, secondly because you did something great to adopt a street kid and last not least you are single, so that the information I will give to you will not spread through town like a wildfire.”

While Broder stared at him wide-eyed, Tiger continued with a deadly serious voice, “You know about the burned banner and the threats to the Weird Varans? There is a background story you have to know to assess the imminent threat.” Gathering his thoughts, “Last November, our history teacher’s car was set on fire. But that was just the last of a succession of threats to my colleague. At first, he got a mail calling him CretinChild MolesterFudge PackerLeave the school!  Increasing the threats even more, the message conveyed, “The “Judges” will extinguish the evil!”  The e-mail was signed singed like to one to the Varans, Judge Cal & Judge McTighe.” “Did he report it to the police?”

“Naw! Not at first! He didn’t take the mail serous at first. You know, teachers are used to such threats, to such mud-slinging. Two weeks later the second e-mail arrived, calling him Disgrace of the UniverseCock SuckerBugger and Aids Monkey. The “Judges” threatened to blow up his house, to annihilate him and his brood. He didn’t react, but on the next stormy evening fire-crackers exploded all around his house. Then he called the police.”

“Did they get the culprits? Did the police check for tracks?” “They didn’t find any evidence of the offender on the site of the crime. Heavy rain had washed away the tracks. However, they located the URL that sent the e-mail. But in vain, it was a PC in an internet cafe.” “To me this still looks like a bloody joke of students, annoying but not dangerous!” Broder objected. “No Broder! No, my son! Judge Cal & Judge McTighe are not fooling around. They are serious, deadly serious, honestly. After a third e-mail they placed several heavy-duty firecrackers underneath my colleague’s Volvo 1800 ES, known as Fiskbilen (The Fish Van) in Sweden and as Schneewittchensarg (Snow White’s Coffin) in Germany. They blew up his ardently loved and very valuable old-timer. When the car exploded, the darting flames nearly set his house on fire. These bloody criminals do not fool around! They are serious. They are hateful, they hate, hate, hate! And they are shrewd!” pausing for breath, “We have to keep the danger away from our kids, from the Weird Varans, their newest target! You and me, and Pete’s brothers! The police force is not of much use in this case!”

*.*.*

On Saturday morning the Weird Varans met to prepare the octagonal court for the tournament in the municipal park close to the fenced-in soccer ground. At a plenary meeting a day before, they had unanimously decided to bid defiance to the threat of the “Judges”. Out of spite they decided to create a new emblem. Neither Mel and Sue Ellen nor the boys were skilled enough to sew a banner therefore they decided to paint their coat of arms on a big wooden panel. In a hot discussion they had voted unanimously for a red shield with a Komodo dragon as heraldic animal. They choose dark red because it is the color of the warriors. The Komodo dragon was painted in bright green and sported a pointed yellow tongue and a golden crown. The golden crown had the shape of two entangled letters, W V, for Weird Varans. This heraldic animal, the dragon, was the symbol of valor and protection and like this wild beast, the Weird Varans were determined to overcome the “Judges”.

Illuminated by the morning sun the big wooden shield was hanging resplendent on the trunk of an old oak and announced the gathering point for the four Jugger clubs taking part in this tournament, the Weird Varans and their guests,  the “St. Martin’s Knights”, the “Sea Pirates” and the “Mountain Bears”.

The St. Martin’s Knights as well as the Sea Pirates were either freshmen or sophomores like the Weird Varans while the Mountain Bears were students of a college about fifty miles away. They were the favorites of the tournament, because of the age and their experience in rugby.

The news about the threat to the Weird Varans had already circulated the whole Jugger league. The members of the other clubs were as outraged as the Weird Varans themselves. The Mountain Bears, as the oldest and most experience team, decided to display the solidarity between all Juggers to the public by a gesture. At the beginning of the tournament, they asked the others Juggers to line up in a mixed string, marched to the center of the field and formed a large circle. Holding hands, they pledged alliance to each other shouting at the top of their voices three times: All for One and One for All. This manifestation impressed the spectators of the tournament, even those who did know nothing of the threats.

In the first match the host, the Weird Varans, fought against the Mountain Bears. Most of the early visitors were students of Oakville High and of St. Martin’s High, the home St. Martin’s Knights, they all supported the Weird Varans. Despite the ear-deafening support the Varans lost 5 to 11, mainly because of the skill of the Mountain Bear’s Qwik and the superior tactical level of this team. In the next game, the students of Oakville High supported the Knights against the Pirates. Both teams were about equal in skill and the match came out close.

In the meantime, more and more visitors to the municipal park had joined the spectators, attracted by the bang-bang of the gong counting the time. The small boys were awestricken by the weapons of the fighters, the staffs, the long and short swords, the shields with their colorful emblems, the paired short swords and the chains with the fixed padded ball. Even the girls were fascinated, not only by the adventurous looks of the players but also because was no discrimination and girls as well as boys were full members of the teams.

Zach, Lilek, Aaron and the other members of the middle school soccer team turned up around noon. They were sorely disappointed after having lost a match in the junior league. However, they lost their frustration in no time, when they were allowed to pick up spare weapons and practice fighting.

*.*.*

Already at the opening of the competition, Broder and Tiger had met on the sideline opposite the oak tree with the coat of arms. They decided to walk around the playground watching the different groups of spectators narrowly, hoping to identify the “Judges”. They didn’t know what to expect exactly, but suspected the wanted would wear black and behave obtrusive.

“According to their appearance in the clip, the “Judges” should either be juniors or seniors. They look kind of too big for freshmen or sophomores. I think they are at the transition to adulthood.” Tiger remarked. Pointing a finger to a clique of four, “These two boys over there come pretty close to the picture of the “Judges” I have in mind.”  “I don’t think you are right Tiger.” Broder stopped embarrassed, “Sorry, Mr. Igerssen! &….. Their body shape comes close, but I doubt the “Judges” would be as successful with girls as these two.”

Tiger grinned, “You can use my nickname Son, I am used to Tiger and for revenge I call you Son.” Waiting a moment, “You are right, Son.” emphasizing the word son, “The two we are looking for should be kind of uneasy with girls. I don’t expect them to be lady-killers, hot for girls sure, but afraid to be rebuffed.”

After the third or fourth round they spotted Pete’s brother Johnny at the big oak with the Weird Varans emblem. He was busily talking to a baby-faced guy. Sneaking up behind the two they overheard Johnny briefing the stranger about Jugging and filling him up about the threats of the “Judges”, “I tell you Dec, these bastards are not joking. They are dangerous. You must help us. You are head of the Police Youth Service! That’s you task also, because these guys seem to be really, really dangerous.” Looking up, Johnny noticed Broder and Tiger. His facial expression relaxed, while he pointed at the eavesdropper “Ask Pete’s PE-teacher Tiger, he will tell you about what happened to the history teacher.”

“Hey there! Have you found an ally, Son?” Tiger addressed Johnny and then introduced himself the stranger. “I am the PE-teacher at Oakville High and responsible for the kids, not only for the good ones, but for the bad ones also.” Pointing at Broder; “This is Broder Ryder, the father of Adam, one of my nicest students!”

“I am Marlowe Dekker! But call me Dec. Johnny and I know each other from college. We were close buddies back then, but lost contact. I am new in town!” Putting his arm across the shoulder of his old friend Marlowe, Johnny asked, “Can you guess why his nickname is Dec?” not waiting, “He is detective in the police department and a quite good one, I am sure! As the head of the Police Youth Service it’s also his responsibility to help us solve the secret of the “Judges.”

The next few hours the four patrolled the sidelines of the field. Nothing conspicuous happened, not one of the spectators looked suspicious. At their powwow during the final match Dec asked Tiger, “You know all the boys of Oakville High, I guess. As their PE-teacher you should have seen their bums in the showers more than once. Do you have an idea who hides behind the mask of the Darth Vaders?” The old PE-teacher only shrugged his shoulders, “No! A waste of effort, the whole afternoon is wasted. Not one of the teens came close to the image I have in mind of the “Judges”.”

Luckily for all, Zach broke up this futile discussion, punching Broder in the back “Hi Broder, you promised to invite us for the last barbeque of this season! I am starved and Lilek is too. Don’t you hear my tummy rumbling! Hurry up! Let’s go!” “Stop nagging you greedy-guts, you know I have to wait for Adam and Vic! But we can’t leave without them because I have to take their gear back home!”

“Just go ahead Broder!” Dec engaged himself in the conversation, “You can’t let these poor boys die of hunger. Get back with them and start the barbecue grill. I will wait for Adam and Vic and give them a ride to your place. I want to stay till the closing of the tournament, anyway. Get going!” “However only if you stay for the barbeque also, Dec. You are welcome! I got meat enough to feed you too. But I do not have any beer around, nada, nothing, not even a single bottle!”

*.*.*

Around ten p. m. Zack and Lilek couldn’t keep their eyes open anymore. Squatting shoulder to shoulder on a thick cover in front of the fire they tried to suppress their yawning. “Get going boys, beds are waiting!” Zach’s mother Mrs. Freer commanded, “Time to go to bed boys!” searching the dark for her eldest son, “Vic, it’s time for you too!” “Oh Mom, today is Saturday, can I stay with Adam? I haven’t had a sleep over at his place in nearly a month. Please, can I? If I stay with Adam, Lilek can use my bed and you do not need clean linen!” “Don’t take me for a fool Victor! You didn’t sleep over at Adam’s, but you did at Pete’s place not long ago. But for the sake of peace and quiet, you can stay if Broder agrees!”

Dec chatting with Broder on the porch, took notice of Vic’s request. “Do you agree? Adam and Vic are no little boys anymore!” “The two are very close. They are best friends, since &…. I don’t mind and Mrs. Freer knows that.” hesitating a moment, “Johnny probably told you Dec that Adam is my adopted son. We met in summer and I made him my son. I am proud he accepted me as his father. He is a great son.” When Dec didn’t answer, “Do you have kids? Everybody has to have a son, Dec!” “No! No kids! I am single. I got my divorce half a year ago and left my old place. That’s the reason I looked for a position here in Dartsborough.”

A short time later the lights went dim over in the Freer´s house. Broder and Dec were still sitting on the porch looking up at the starry sky. Both were chatting on in low voices, when Adam came out of the back door in boxers only. He went over to Broder and gave him a quick peck on the cheek, “Night Dad, thanks for attending the match today! &…&… You too Dec also, it was nice to have you around at the barbeque!” “Thanks Adam, sleep well, you and Vic.” Dec answered and then with a slightly regret in his voice he turned to Broder, “You really got a nice son, Broder.”

A little later, the two went inside too. As Dec prepared to leave, he suddenly hesitated at the front door as if he had to make up his mind. Unexpectedly for Broder he asked with hoarse voice, “May I stay with you Broder for tonight?” Then hardly audible he added, “Forever? I don’t want to leave. Please!”

*.*.*

ADAM:

On Sunday morning Adam sneaked into Broder’s bedroom. It was already past nine and the room was still dark. Soft-footed he went to the window, pulled up the blinds, turned around and called. “Hey dad, breakfast! You are late! Vic has prepared the coffee and I did the pancakes. Don’t you smell&…” the next words got stuck in his throat, “Excuse me!” he muttered with a low voice and headed for the door, his eyes cast down.

“Don’t Adam! Don’t leave.  We have to &…..!” Broder called after his son. Adam was in a shock. That was the last he had expected, Broder and Dec in bed together. Broder was spooning Dec! Adam let the door shut, took a deep breath and went to the kitchen. As if nothing special had happened he announced to Vic, “Broder and Dec will be here in a moment.”

*.*.*

“You hit Vic again on the head Adam, kneel down! Down!” Zack ordered. In the practice after breakfast Zach acted as the referee and Lilek, as time keeper. He counted “one”, “two”, “three”, “four”, “five”. Adam rose and hit Vic again with the staff. His friend parried the hard attack with the shield and then complained angrily, “Stop being so aggressive Adam, it’s not my fault that Dec stayed overnight!”

“It’s not Dec, it’s Broder! I hate&…&…”  Adam was not able to finish the sentence, because Broder called from inside, “Adam, Vic, hurry! Tru just called! The “Judges” have mailed a second clip. It’s the second threat!”

Clustered in a half circle in front of the screen they watched the clip. The first frame was:

“VENGEANCE IS MINE, WE WILL REPAY!”
WATCH OUT! THE END IS NIGH!
Judge Cal & Judge McTighe

The short clip showed a small lake beside the scrawny oak tree of the first clip. The open water was bordered by a thicket of willows and sweet gale. In the dark water an alligator was floating. At first disguised figures appeared extending the right arm from the neck into the air with a straightened hand shouting “Hail! Hail our people, Hail victory! Heil!”. Next, they aimed paintball rifles at a shield with an emblem resembling that of the Weird Varans suspended on an oak, focused the rifles and shot several rounds of paintball ammo, till the red paint trickled down to the ground. But this didn’t quench their thirst of blood. Now they focused at the alligator and delivered round after round of the bullets at the animal. The fierce hits made the alligator jump and squirm like a real animal. Slowly it was propelled back into the deeper water stained with red paint. It looked like an animal wounded to death tried to escape.

The next take, a close up, revealed the big red eyes and crooked white fangs of the alligator. From the distance the alligator looked like living, but when zoomed in on it, it turned out to be a big inflatable in the shape of an alligator. “It’s an air mattress, a float, like the one we had last year!” Zach announced giggling, but then he fell silent, because fastened to the grips of the inflatable animal was a plate. It read: “W V“, exactly like the crown on the Weird Varans´ coat of arms.

In the next take two men in black, with masks like the ones used by paintball players, were shown hiding behind a tree trunk washed ashore. One was carrying a paintball rifle, the other one a shotgun in addition to the paintball marker. Then the man rose up, took aim and delivered the shells of the two-barreled shotgun. The spray of pellets shredded the alligator to pieces and the plate with the initials of the Weird Varans vanished in the depth of lake. The ear deafening explosions of the shotgun was followed by the devilish laughter of the men in black and cheers of triumph and hate, “Wimps! Cock suckers! Sissies! Vengeance is ours! Hail! Hail! Hail! Victory to the people!”

*.*.*

At first Zach and Lilek joined the laughter, but then the meaning of the clip dawned on the young boys and they started shaking. Vic took Zach in his arms and tried to sooth him, “Come on little brother, come on, that’s just a joke!” Lilek sought refuge in Broder’s lap, babbling incoherently. On the spur of a moment, Vic and Broder took the distressed boys and left for the Freer’s.

Adam and Dec stayed behind alone. Adam was sitting petrified in front of the shut down screen. When the detective tried to take Adam’s ice-cold hand, he fought him off.

“Please listen, Adam! I have to explain to you the new situation. Please listen to me!” he pleaded. Adam didn’t react, so Dec continued, “Yesterday Broder and I met for the first time. From the first moment on I felt at ease in his company. It was as if we had been friends forever, as if we were brothers.” pausing a moment, “In the evening at the fire I was perfectly happy watching you, Vic, Zach and Lilek fooling around. I was sitting with Broder, when you walked up to us. You hugged Broder “Night Dad!” and then you thanked me also. Your affectionate hug dissipated all my remaining doubts. From that moment on I was absolutely sure I had to be part of your family.” Adam did not answer. His body language proved he was in a complete turmoil. Dec continued his pleading, “Please Adam, don’t be mad anymore. Don’t be mad at Broder and me. Something happened between us and we don’t understand why, neither Broder nor me. But you have to know Broder loves you as he did before, from the very first moment you met. I would like to be included in your love. I would like to be called father also.”

Adam stayed silent for a long time. Dec was about to leave, when Adam, gave him a small smile of consent, “Do I have two fathers from now on?” looking questioning at Dec, “Do I have two fathers to find these villains and defang them?” Adam rose, walked to Dec, hugged him and started to grin sheepishly, “These criminals failed, they have been digging their own graves making you and Broder my fathers!”

*.*.*

“It’s the Sky-Eye, Johnny told me! The Sky-Eye is a lake up on Frozen Head Mountain!” Pete announced with cracking voice. “Hey Pete, what is the Sky-Eye?” Adam checked back.  “It is the name of the lake in the clip of the “Judges”! Paul was up there last spring. He recognized the lake! &…. Do you know where Detective Dekker is? Paul would like to talk to him, but he doesn’t answer the phone!”

“Dec? He’s still here! He stayed overnight! &…. Dec, Johnny wants to talk to you!” An hour later Broder, Dec and Adam met with Paul in his off-road vehicle at Burlap Springs. “Do you think we will find any traces of the rubber alligator?” was Pete’s first question.

Dec just shrugged his shoulders, “I hope. Every suspect leaves traces, at least some.” They all were tense during the ride along the gravel road up into the mountains. Driving down a small road to the lake surrounded by mountain peaks, Adam understood why the small lake was called Sky-Eye. Embedded in a beech wood forest, surrounded by alders, the smooth surface of the lake mirrored the blue afternoon sky. The road to the sandy beach was the only access to the lake. It was barred partially by a barkless tree trunk close to the waterline.

“Don’t mess up the footprints!” Dec warned Adam and Pete, who wanted to be first at the water. While he and Broder collected evidence at the parking-site and the beach, Paul and the two freshmen walked through the high grass to the waterline, carefully avoiding sandy patches. The waves had washed ashore the remains of the alligator, shreds of green rubber, and some empty paintballs shells. Now they were partially covered by sand. Searching for more evidence they found two empty shells of shotgun between the reeds.

“These are from buckshot.” Johnny told the others, “They are big enough to kill a man at short distance. These guys are really dangerous.” Collecting the shells, he called, “Hey Dec, should we recover the rubber shreds and the paintballs also?”

“Collect everything, these kids are sure are careless, leaving enough evidence to be convicted. Come over here Adam and Pete. Let’s find out how your footprints compare the ones of the “Judges” in the sand. The “Judges” should be heavier than Adam and at least as big as Pete!”

Dec was right. The footprints of the suspects were about the same size as Pete’s and larger than Adam’s. On some places the treads were clearly imprinted in the moist sand. This and the light condition at the time the clip was taken indicated that the alligator massacre had taken place late on Saturday afternoon.

Dec took photos of every part of the place, close-ups of the footprints and of alligator’s remains and finally asked Adam and Pete to line up in front of the tree trunk, to be able to approximate the body size of the “Judges” by comparison with clips.

*.*.*

On the ride back, Broder asked Adam to take the seat between him and Dec on the rear bench. At first Adam felt kind of funny sitting between his “two fathers”, but then he was happy about it because of two reasons. The first was very simple. Sitting sandwiched between the two proved that they loved him both and accepted him as full member of the new family. The second reason was that Adam had been a little scared that Broder and Dec would start to make out on the backseat. After all this was their first day together as boyfriends and being in the same circumstance with Vic, he wouldn’t have been able to keep his hands from his boyfriend. He was happy the two abstained from playing lovebirds in front of Pete and Paul.

Adam still wondered. Had the two made love together? He couldn’t imagine Broder making love. No, not at all! Broder had always been so standoffish, so shy to show his emotions to others. Broder had hugged him once in a while, but he had never given him a peck. Adam on the other hand liked to show his affection in public. He liked to kiss Broder in front of others, and this made Broder blush usually. He liked to kiss Vic and Zack, Lilek also. Moreover, the Weird Varans greeted each other with a peck on the cheek.

And Dec? Adam wondered. He didn’t know him at all. Would Dec show his affection to Broder in public? This morning he had caught the two spooning. This proved they enjoyed each other. But after just a day of knowing each other it was just too early for such a display of friendship in front of others. After all they were grown-ups.

*.*.*

BRODER:

The living room at 15 Sparrow Lane had been converted into the head-quarters of the task force, called WVTF that is “WEIRD VARANS Task Force“. The dining table was used as a conference desk with a telephone and Dec’s notebook computer. A flipchart concealed Broder’s favorite posters. A small coffee table was now a desk, covered with scraps of evidence. The door to Broder’s office was wide open and his PC running. Dec, Broder and Tiger constituted the investigation team, while Adam’s and Vic’s task was to give support, to run errands and organize the connection to other Weird Varans, especially to Pete and Tru.

At the moment Dec’s notebook was connected to a video-projector and everyone was concentrating on the second video of the “Judges”. “Stop the video for a sec,” Adam asked. “Look at their shoes. The “Judges” are wearing working boots, Dockers I suppose They use white shoelaces!” While Broder and Tiger still tried to figure out the meaning, Vic exclaimed in disgust, “They are fascists! White shoelaces are worn by the Alt-Right, the new-Nazis!” “They also are wearing army cargos in black and black hoodies. Is this kind of a uniform?” Tiger asked bewildered.

“You are getting old Mr. Igerssen!” Dec interjected, “Haven’t you seen the Black Sun on the back of their hoodie? The Black Sun is a symbol employed by the neo-Nazis as well as in occult subcultures. The Black Sun is much less known as other signs like the Swastika, the German Hakenkreuz. It also is more impressive as an image and therefore preferred by younger members of these groups.”

“Surely, you also know the meaning of the numbers imprinted in front. I don’t expect the “Judges” are fascinated my mathematics.” Tiger went on. “I am neither familiar with 168:1 nor do I know the meaning of the expression 14 Words! I am probably just too old to know! I have grown up in a democratic society!”

“These things prove that these guys are not supporters of a harmless subculture group, they are Nazis, they are White Supremacists!” Dec explained clearing his throat, “If you assume, I have learned about these symbols and number codes during my police training, you are wrong. I had to find out for myself. These neo-Nazi and alt-Rights are dangerous to people having a different view of the world, a different religious conviction or different color of the skin. The alt-Rights pose a threat to democracy and international peace. Didn’t you know our President is a secret supporter of this ideology! Not in action, in words he supports these racists because they are his main voters!”

While all members of the WVTF looked touched, Dec began to explain the number codes: “Do you remember the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh? His homemade bombs killed 168 people! Now the alt-Right uses 1:168 to signal their victory over the government!” While Broder, Tiger, Adam and Vic still contemplated the significance of 1:168 Dec continued, “And 14 Words? It stands for a slogan of these white racists discriminating all not white citizens, like Native Americans and Afro-Americans, like Latinos and Asians or whatever ethnic group you can think off. The slogan says: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children“!

After being petrified for a moment Adam shot a question to Dec, “Why didn’t the police academy didn’t teach you about these ultra-right-wing groups? That’s important, all the more considering the killing of people of other ethnic groups by Neo-Nazis like Afro-Americans, Jews and Muslims. I am sure even some cops are infected by the alt-Right ideology! Remember the killing of unarmed Afro-Americans by cops! In many cases the officers were not even brought to justice.” “Yes! I agree with Adam!” Vic barged in, “Police often suspect even unarmed victims to be criminals just because of the color of their skin! The guideline they seem to follow is Shoot first, Ask later! “

Looking at Dec, Tiger wanted to calm down the situation. “Let’s concentrate on our immediate problem. Adam and Vic, I have a task for you. The “Judges” used paintball markers. Aren’t there paintball shops and a paintball range in Dartsborough also? Your task will be to check out the paintball shops for the brands used by the “Judges”. If necessary, you will have to visit the paintball range. You are just in the right age to ask for a trial membership. If they ask you why you do not want to become permanent members, just tell them you have to persuade you parents before by proving your shooting skill. This way you may find out if the “Judges” are practicing there.”

Adam objected immediately, “I doubt that these two are members of a club, because they’re not using the padded paintball clothing!” Broder discarded Adam’s objection promptly. “I think Tiger is right. Even if they are not members, you will learn about other students being members and this may help our investigation.”

Meanwhile Dec had opened a new file in his notebook, “As a policeman, I would prefer we first collect all the facts, we know about the two “Judges”. Getting no objection, he began to collect the combined knowledge. “Both “Judges” are about Pete’s height that is about 6′ 0″ to 6′ 3″. One however seems a little stockier!” “Sure, his ass was a little fatter!” Tiger approved and immediately provoked Broder. Smiling at his former PE-teacher, “You said that, Tiger! I am sure you are right, having seen more teen’s asses than any one of us!” Dec stayed serious, “Both are wearing dark work boots with white laces, black cargos, black hoodies and black paintball masks. Right?”

“What do we know about their weapons, Dec?” Broder asked. “They are using upgraded semiautomatic paintball guns with additional air tanks and big hoppers. But I am not familiar with the brands! However, Johnny told me the brand of the double-barreled shotgun, the slender one was carrying. He is using the same gun for hunting; it’s an old Browning gun.” Wagging his head, Dec urged caution, “Knowing the gun’s brand will not help us at all, because it’s an old brand. He may have got it from his father or grandfather even.”

*.*.*

 

“At the moment our knowledge does not help us to identify the suspicious characters.” Dec explained, “However there are other features known to be typical for perpetrators of school shootings. In contrast to the public opinion the do not only come from derelict families. They have a variety of family backgrounds. They can be children from intact families as well as from broken homes or from foster homes. They also do not necessarily have a past as trouble makers in school.”

Tiger shook his head slowly, “I am not sure if you are right. An apparently intact family does not necessarily mean that the family situation does not harbor abnormalities. As far my information goes, often the supervision of the parents is missing, sometimes to a degree that they didn’t know, what their kids have been doing in their spare time. For example, they didn’t set limits in television watching or the internet using.”

Adam, impatiently wriggling on his chair, intervened, “Neither you Tiger, nor Dec can prove this. I am from a broken family as well as Lilek is! Do you expect us to get guns and shoot my schoolmates?” “Surely not Adam!” Tiger smiled, “I don’t know about Lilek, but you are not the guy belonging to the same a category like these perpetrators.” After a moment he posed a further question, “Do you belong to the group of injustices collectors, Adam? I bet you don’t!” When Adam as well as Vic seemed to be clueless, Tiger elaborated. “You do not belong to the kind of student who will never forget, never forgive and never let go. If students like these are bullied, they hide their feelings, they bottle up their hate up to the point they decide to take revenge and as the past shows, this hate is deadly.”

Now it was time for Broder to participate actively. “I know we adults are confident that neither Adam, nor Vic, nor Lilek, nor one of the Weird Varans belong to these endangered students, because none of them has developed behavioral problems or depressions, despite some of them had suffered fatal blows in the past. They all proved to have self-control, showed great social skills and do good in school.

As soon as everyone agreed with Dec, the detective progressed to the next part of profiling. “We have to learn more about the “Judges”, we have to know why they are inclined to commit such violent deeds. I suggest we should proceed in compliance with the information made available by the federal police. They identified factors that may indicate individuals who have the potential to commit violence.” With a groan he remarked then, “I guess that a nearly impossible endeavor.”

Closing his eyes, he proceeded, “After every school shooting the police has tried to identify the reason why the assailants committed the crime. In most case in vain!” Turning to the boys, “Adam, Vic, since the beginning of the new century the police counted 39 to 40 attacks. The latest massacres with the highest counts of dead are the one at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the one at the Santa Fe High School.”

Broder turned to Dec more worried than before, “I have heard about these suggestions, but do you really assume the “Judges” are as dangerous as the Stoneman killers? I suppose they are in one of the schools of our peace-loving community. Probably they are junior or senior students!”

“Let’s have a look! We can’t exclude a single possibility to keep harm from our children! Do you all agree? Let me read to you a catalogue of the factors expected to be of special importance.” He began to specify the factors: The first factor is low self-esteem. I think we have covered this point already. Also, we have already spoken about two other major factors, like disrespect for mothers or other family members and regarding violence as the only alternative left to recover self-esteem. Other factors, we haven’t looked at in detail are acts of cruelty to animals and fascination with firearms.

While Dec filed through a handbook, Broder stared out of the window into the dark and Adam huddled with Vic on the couch. Tiger was circling the desk restlessly, soft-footed like a tiger. After quite a while he planted himself in front of Dec. “Most of these factors we can’t prove, because we do not know the “Judges” by person. The video clip proves their fascination with firearms however as well as their cruelty against animals, even in this case the animal is just a rubber animal.”

“Tiger, if the “Judges” are students at the Oakville High School, you as their PE-teacher should at least have a vague suspicion, who of your students are suffering from lack in self-esteem?” Dec asked, “Remember they are two, two sticking together like thieves, because of their lack of self-esteem, their feeling of isolation and their social rejection.”

Tiger frowned, scratched his head and commenced circling the desk. “Tiger, these boys must have problems an experienced teacher like you should notice. Even if you do not remember a pair of friends, who fit to the description above, you have to keep these factors in mind, look around and ask the other teachers about suspicious students.”

“Aren’t there other signs also?” Broder inquired “I have heard those students often express their frustration in writings and drawings and also in listening to songs promoting violence.” “You are right, my boy, tomorrow I will talk to my colleagues of the creative writing department and of the fine arts department, even if I would prefer not to let in on the problem at the moment.” “You just have to Tiger! It’s important!” As the door slammed shut behind Tiger, Vic asked, “How do we fit into FBI’s scheme? We are the targets, we are the threatened, the prospective victims, not the “Judges”, neither Judge Cal nor Judge McTighe.”

*.*.*

ADAM:

The morning after Adam’s temples throbbed. Why do I have these vicious headaches, he asked himself. It was already late when he hit the pillow last night. The last thoughts he had had revolved not around the “Judges”, but his relationship to Broder and Dec. He still was worried. Now he didn’t want to agonize over the new situation again and buried his head in the pillow.

Just a moment later someone pulled away the pillow, “Morning Adam! It’s high time to wake up!” It was Broder. He gave him a quick peck! “Wake up, Adam my boy!” followed by another peck. Adam turned and looked up into a face happy as a lark. “Oh Adam, love is so great!”

A noise at the door attracted Adam’s attention. Dec entered grinning sheepishly, “Tell Adam! Please Broder! You have to tell him also, I told it to our boy already yesterday. You have to confirm it.” Broder blushed and then took Dec’s hand, “We are a&…..” for a moment he struggled for words, “Adam, we are a family now! You, Dec and me! We will stay together forever! From now on you will have two fathers and we have a son!”

It was a short breakfast, not an extended opulent one like after a wedding night. When the three left 15 Sparrow Lane, Broder to his job at pWpS (pure Water pure Soil) and Dec to the police department, Adam jumped on his bike and pedaled happily to school raking his brain: To whom should I tell this great news first? To Vic? Sure, he is my boyfriend! To Pete and Tru? Not now, maybe a little later! To Mel and the other Weird Varans? Better not today. To Tiger? I have to tell him also! But today? He has known both for more than 20 years now. He has to know today. He is also a supporter of the Weird Varans team. I trust him!

Adam was late when he arrived at Oakville High. Adam was excited. His first lesson was PE and he had the chance to let Vic as well as Tiger into the secret now. When he threaded his way through the crowd of students at the entrance somebody tripped him up. “You stupid little queer! You cock sucker! You teacher’s pet!” the black dressed attacker hissed viciously. Adam hit the ground head first and his nose started bleeding. Like a bat out of hell the brute attacker vanished. All Adam could distinguish of the attacker while he tumbled over, were work boots with white laces.

Tiger and Adam ran into each other in front of the gym. “Got a bloody nose, my boy? Go to my office my boy and try to stop the bleeding. Then wait, we have to talk.” Adam couldn’t wait to let Tiger into the secret, “I have to tell you something much more important! Broder and Dec have teamed up. Forever! I have two fathers now!” Shaking his head in surprise Tiger smiled, looked around for witnesses and after he felt confident, he embraced Adam, “Congrats Adam! I am sure you and your fathers will be a great team!”

After PE, Tiger and Vic found Adam snoring in the office on the old couch, his face partially covered by a wet towel. “Hey wake up son.” When Tiger’s call was not successful, Vic tickled Adam back to life.

“Good news or maybe bad news sons, depends on the point of view.” Tiger announced, beckoned them to sit down on the couch. “Miss Myers knows of many students acting out their fantasies of violence in creative writing. She was talking especially of four. In addition to living out their cruel fantasies in writing, these are falling into the category of students with low school interest and poor academic performance. They are also not accepted by their mates and range at the end of the pecking order.”

With a distraught expression Adam remarked, “But Vic and I, we are also not fully accepted by the jocks, and Tru is only accepted because he is Pete’s pet!”

“But you are not isolating yourself. You may be not the best in sports, but all the others know about your talents. Adam, yours is writing and Vic, yours is acting.” This compliment made both smile with relief. Tiger continued, “These students however are isolating themselves; they have created their own world.” Shaking his head in disbelief, the old teacher continued, “Miss Myers has been watching some of these students drifting away from the real world into an unreal world for two or three years now. She tried to reintegrate them into the class structure, but without success.”

“Did she tell you their names? We need to check on them.”

“She told me, but I will not tell you the names, not for the moment at least. Three of them are Juniors, while one belongs to the Seniors. Two of the Juniors are very close. This narrows down the number of the suspects a little.”

After an adjournment Adam inquired, “Tiger you didn’t ask me, why my nose was bleeding. Somebody tripped me. He called me gay, cock sucker, teacher’s pet. I couldn’t recognize him, but he did wear a black hoodie and work boots with white laces.” “These insults and the white laces prove that the “Judges” are students of Oakville High! Come on Adam, let’s go and search for him! Then maybe we will find both.” Vic urged Adam. “No, no!” Tiger protested, “Stop boys, that’s my task! But we will need more evidence than homophobic insults and an alt-Right outfit to prove that these students are the “Judges”.”

*.*.*

Mark’s Paintball-Shop and Shooting Range was located on a main outward road in the industrial quarter in the north of Dartsborough. Hidden between factories, the shop looked quite small and inconspicuous. The shop floor was spacious however, on the shelves a vast assortment of paintball equipment was on display. Adam and Vic went along the shelves and studied particularly the paintball markers, the pistols and the pods with paintballs carefully.

The door-bell had summoned a middle-aged man. “I am Mark, the Paintball Guru.” he greeted “New customers?&…. Welcome boys! I am the owner of this shop; I operate the paintball park and I am heading the local league.”

“Hi Sir, I am Adam, and this is my friend Vic, it’s all new for us, everything. We know paintball only from TV.” “Have a look around, make yourself familiar! Do you want a try-out? Training sessions are on Tuesday to Friday evening!” “Could we? But we haven’t even handled a marker before.” “You can even try out a marker now! Come on!”

At a small indoor shooting range, he handed each a marker. “The first rounds are on the house, for the next you have to pay 2 bucks each.” “Actually, we do not want to start now. We have to ask our parents first.” Vic injected.

“At the moment we are more interested to get information.” Adam resorted to a lily-white lie, “Our cousin is playing paintball and for his birthday he wants a new mask, a black one.” Vic assisted, “A special one! He wants to look like Darth Vader! He couldn’t get one in his hometown and asked us to look for it in Dartsborough.” “I had some, but they are not produced anymore. The last two I sold at the spring sale.” Marc, the balding owner of the paintball store, answered with a shrug.

“Do you remember who bought them?” “Students like you, from the Oakville High.” Eyeing Adam and Vic from head to toe he added scowling “No they were older! I didn’t like them. I had to throw them out after some training sessions. Paintball players have neither to be racists nor alcoholics! Students shouldn’t drink at all!”

“Do you remember their names by chance? We are studying in Oakville High too?” “Vod and &…. Bud, they called each other.” Mark answered Adam, who asked back, “Vod Cal and Bud McTighe?” “What so ever, Vod Cal and Bud McTighe or Bud Cal and Vod McTighe. But I guess that are just their nicknames, Vod for Vodka and Bud for Budweiser. They liked to drink.”

The two high-fived and then started whispering. For a moment Mark the Paintball Guru, looked bewildered but the Adam’s next question made him chuckle knowingly, “Mister, would you tell our fathers if we accept your offer and shoot some rounds?” Grinning like a conspirator and letting the coins the boys handed him disappear into a tin on the counter, “I close my eyes, boys! But first let me show how to handle the guns then I will turn my back to you, for the rest of the afternoon!”

*.*.*

The street lights were already on when Adam left the drama club meeting on Wednesday evening. The moon was shining brightly therefore he decided to risk the shortcut through the municipal park, despite the warning of Broder; “Be at home before dark, remember the threats of the “Judges”. In the dark don’t use the way across the park!”

With high speed Adam pedaled along the sandy walks, but it was not the warning that made Adam hurry along the deserted trails, he just wanted to spend the evening with his two dads and granddad! He enjoyed the new family like a kitten enjoys the warmth of the mother’s soft fur. Pedaling along in the dark he let rush by the events of last weekend in his mind’s eye. He couldn’t keep from laughing out loud remembering Broder’s and Dec’s purple faces when the Freer family dropped in to present their wedding congratulations.

On Monday just before the evening meal, bells were chiming at the backdoor of 15 Sparrow Lane. When Adam opened the door, he faced Vic and Zach, both grinning like Cheshire cats. Turning his head, he called “Broder! Dec! Late visitors! Hurry up, into the garden!”

The subsequent events completely surprised Broder and Dec as well as Adam. Fireworks rocketed into the sky, roman candles sprayed their sparks into the dark night, flares colored the night sky red and at the end heavy-duty firecrackers exploded.

When the noise subsided Vic and Zack advanced out of the dark singing:

Health and a long life to you.
Land without rent to you.
A child every year to you.
And if you can’t go to heaven
May you at least die in Sparrow Lane!

First the two presented a big bouquet of roses to the new-found couple and then Mrs. and Mr. Freer stepped forward with a big bottle of champagne.

“Good luck to you Broder! Good luck to you Dec!” Mrs. Freer gave both a hearty kiss on the cheeks, while Mr. Freer shook their hands and hugged both shyly. Then Zach asked his parents, Vic and Adam to a ring-a-ring of roses around their bashfully smiling new couple, singing:

Broder and Dec
Sitting in a tree
K-i-s-s-i-n-g,
K-i-s-s-i-n-g,
K-i-s-s-i-n-g!
First comes love
Then comes marriage
Now they’re both pushing
a baby carriage!

The bell at the front-door interrupted the frolicking. Tiger popped up, “Congratulations my sons! Broder and Dec, the best wishes from an old spinster!” He hugged both and added with melancholy voice, “Sons, you took the right decision. You took a step I never dared to do!” When Broder and Dec looked at him wide-eyed, Tiger pulled Adam closer. He beamed, “Your boy told me the secret. Adam was so proud. Even before classes started, he had to tell me about his two fathers. He couldn’t keep the secret a moment longer. Congratulation, my dear Sons!” Dragging a big hamper filled with delicacies out of his car, “That’s my contribution to the party!…… Don’t say no. The bride’s father has always to cater for the wedding!&….Let’s start the feasting!”

Munching at the wedding table Zach couldn’t keep his tongue and asked Broder and Dec straight forward as a die, “Who of you will be Adam’s father and who will be his mother? Or&….”

“Don’t be silly!” his mother interfered promptly, “Sorry about that Broder, he’s just a boy&….!”

Now it was Adam turn, “I have two fathers, Zach! We three have agreed to this! I am so happy.” This statement was solemnly confirmed by his brand-new fathers. They took Adam in a bear hug. But he couldn’t help but add “If your wish gets true Zach, I will have a new brother or sister every year and then you have to baby-sit them!” Cackling laughter filled the room and the small but unbelievable gorgeous wedding party went on.

When all the dishes were emptied, the bottle of champagne drained and the Freers had gone, Broder and Dec started their permanent partnership with the clean-up of the dishes in the kitchen. At the couch Adam was snuggling close to Tiger. He was a little tipsy because of the first glass of champagne he ever had. “Tiger!” he giggled, “Would you mind if I appoint you to be my honorary granddad? I have two dads now but not a single granddad!”

The PE-teacher was stunned. When Adam got no answer for a while, he repeated the question “Do you, Tiger!” The old man bowed down to the boy on his side and began to trace Adam’s face with his digit, first the eyebrows, then the small nose, the red lips, the dimpled chin and finally the smooth cheeks. Adam was surprised! He was not sure what this was all about. Just when he wanted to fend off Tiger, the old man leaned back in the couch.

Adam felt deeply ashamed because of his bold question and contemplated to run to his room. However, his sudden attempt to take flight was averted by Tiger’s voice “Am I already in a sizzled state or am I hallucinating? I just had to feel your face, my boy. I wanted to make sure I am not dreaming!”

Now it was on Adam to giggle. Again, he asked, this time with even more emphasis, “Do you, Tiger? Do you want to be my granddad?” Oh Adam! I finally got the nephew I was waiting for so long! A nephew and two grown up sons! O God, what a day for an old man!” Now both broke out into laughter and shouted, “Those Damned “Judges”! It’s their fault! They are doomed! They just can’t win that war game!”

*.*.*

ADAM:

Adam was still giggling when he pedaled up the ramp to the wooden swing bridge crossing the stream meandering through the park. Having two dads and a granddad was something he never had expected at all! Now he had Broder, Dec, Tiger and a lot of friends, maybe even a boyfriend.

The last meters of the ascent of the bridge were so steep that his bike nearly came to a stop and the bicycle light went off. Speeding up again on the narrow footbridge, he braked terrified. The small passage was blocked by a midnight-black object. Looking closer, Adam recognized someone propped with his back against the railing, head hidden between his drawn-up knees. The person’s MP3 player was running full blast so that Adam could recognize some lines of the black song:

&…&…the radio on turned up so loud
that no one hears you screaming
No you don’t know what it’s like
When nothing feels alright
You don’t know what it’s like to be like me

To be hurt
To feel lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked
When you’re down
To feel like you’ve been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
And no one’s there to save you
No you don’t know what it’s like&…

Adam knew the song. He had listened to “welcome to my life” by the Simple Plan a hundred times before, but the song had never sounded so heavy heartedly, so sorrowful, so sad. Slowly, very slowly, he realized, it was not the song and its lyrics, it was the convulsive sobbing of the black bundle on the bridge.

Adam leaned his bike to the railing, “Hey you! Hey, can I hel&…&…!” he addressed the crouched person. The person didn’t let him finish the question, “Piss off! Piss off! I don’t need your help! Piss off, I hate you!     Hate you!    Hate you!” The person in black rose. He was slender and towered over Adam by a full head. “Piss off&…!” He grabbed Adam by the shoulders and shook him like a weed. “Piss off you little fucker! Do you want me to throw you over the railing into the water? Should I break your neck?”

Adam was in shock. He tried to break loose, take his bike and escape. He tried but couldn’t, “Stay sucker! Now I recognize you!” The voice went shrill, “You are Adam, the honey-bun of Miss Myers, the sweetie of Tiger, the darling of all the horny bitches, of the boy bitches and girl bitches! They all love you, because you are the poor little orphan boy, the darling freshmen! You and Tru! You disgusting sweet looking geeks! You bloody nerds!” Full of disgust Adam’s attacker spit out these accusations.

Bit by bit Adam remembered the guy. He remembered his face. He was one of the Juniors. Adam looked down and he spotted the white shoe laces and the work boots. The guy was one of the “Judges”, the bigger one, probably the one called Vod! Wild with fear Adam tried to break free again. He started begging “Please let me go! You are hurting me!” In vain!

The Judge commanded “Stay!” and then his body convulsed with sobbing. “You do not have a mother, but you got a loving father, Adam! But I? My mother is a slut! She stopped taking the pill to get pregnant. I was conceived against the will of my father. She did it for his money and now he hates her! He hates me! She hates me! Everyone hates me! I wish they had decided on an abortion. I hate living!”

During these wallows of self-pity Vod’s steely grip turned bit by bit into a hug, a desperate pleading. It was this moment that Adam realized instinctively he could only help himself by helping his tormentor. “Tell me your name! Please Vod, tell me your real name: You know mine and I know Vod stands for Vodka and that’s not a name for a friend!” Adam raised his eyes and looked straight up into his opponent’s face.

Silence spread. “It’s Gerry! My granny called my Gerry. She loved me! Only she did!    You can leave Adam. Now I know what to do!” and he took out a handgun from his pocket.

The sudden change in Gerry’s voice, the ice in Gerry’s voice, the sudden change in his attitude and especially the gun alarmed Adam. “I can’t leave you now Gerry! You can’t stay here in the desolate park.” When Gerry didn’t answer, Adam asked, “Please, walk home with me!”

Gerry hadn’t time to contemplate the answer, because from both ends of the park people came running, searching the park with flashlights! Broder was the first to enter the bridge. He took Adam in big hug, “You damned kid! You scared me to death. Why didn’t you come back with Vic? We alarmed the whole town. Dec even asked his colleagues for assistance.”

Vic advanced from the other end of the bridge together with Tiger. He hollered relieved, “Did you go for a date? Do you have a secret lover? I thought friends will share all their secrets.” He pushed himself between Adam and Gerry, “What do you want from my boyfriend! He is mine, only mine. I keep a jealous watch over him!”

“Hi boy! Aren’t you Gerald from the juniors, Gerald the friend of Jeff?” Checking the student in the light of the pocket lamp Tiger had a sudden inspiration, “You are Judge McTighe! Don’t take me for an idiot! Did you want to take out your anger and frustration on Adam?” The old PE-teacher couldn’t help, but punched Gerald hard in the stomach.

Gerry would have loved to bog down out of shame. He felt so weak! The hard bunch nearly put him to the ground. Adam stepped between the two, “Tiger, Gerry didn’t waylay me. We ran into each other by chance. I learned he is hurt, he is lost; he is on the edge of a breakdown. You are an experienced teacher; he needs your help. Please see him home, he needs a guardian!”

*.*.*

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

I would like to express my special thanks to my friends Bart, Brian, Sean and TSL for improving my writing.

Comments, reviews, questions, and complaints are welcomed. Please send them to Ruwen Rouhs.

And I would like to add, thanks for reading.

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    A quick "Vote Up" gives the author a smile!
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