“Jeremy, telephone,” Nancy called to her son as he was doing his homework.
“Who is it?” Jeremy called back.
“A girl,” Nancy said as she peeked into his room. “I didn’t ask.”
“Hello,” Jeremy said as he answered the phone while wondering what girl would be calling him.
“Hi Jeremy,” the girl said. “Could I talk to you about something?”
“That depends, who is this?”
“It’s Allison, silly.”
“Sure Allison, what did you want to talk about?”
“Do you think Cody likes me?”
“Everybody likes you. You’re nice, friendly, and pretty too.”
“No, I don’t mean likes me like a person, but as a girl.”
“But, you are a girl. Anyway I thought you were unless you’re a well dressed transvestite.”
“Jeremy Morgan, you’re impossible. You know very well what I’m asking.”
“You’re asking the wrong person. You need to be asking Cody.”
“I can’t just come right out and ask him that. I’ve tried to talk to him, but all he always changes the subject and talks about football. I don’t know of him dating anyone. Do you think he might be gay?”
“If I knew that I wouldn’t be discussing it with you are anyone else. A person’s sexuality is a private matter until they decide to make it public. If you’re interested in dating Cody, why don’t you ask him for a date?”
“I can’t do that.”
“Why can’t you?”
“I just can’t. Girls don’t ask boys out.”
“This isn’t the fifties. Anyway, it’s no difference than you wearing a tight sweater and pushing your tits in his face.”
“Jeremy, I don’t do that.”
“Okay, maybe you don’t wear a tight sweater. But, you do flirt with him and rub your tits up against him.”
“A lot of good it has done me. He doesn’t seem interested. Maybe he is gay.”
“Allison, I wouldn’t go around saying things like that. You may say something that you’ll have to live with and will regret that you ever said it.”
“Well, you’re no help at all.”
“I’m sorry about that, but I need to go eat dinner. If you want to date Cody, just ask him.”
The next day when Jeremy, Cody, and Scott waited for Allen to pick them up from school, Cody asked, “What did you say to Allison yesterday?”
“Nothing much,” Jeremy said. “She wanted to know if I thought you liked her.”
“What did you tell her?”
“That she was asking the wrong person. What did she say to you?”
“She asked me to go to the movie with her.”
“Are you going?”
“Sure, I am.”
“Cody, you’re such a phony,” Scott said. “You’re just going out with her for appearance.”
“Shut up, Scott. I’ve wanted to ask her out, but never got up the courage to do it. Besides, she’s good looking.”
Scott was obviously upset with his brother. He walked away and started up a conversation with a girl that Jeremy didn’t know.
The boys were curiously quiet on the ride home. “What’s with you guys today?” Allen asked after dropping Cody and Scott off at their house.
“Nothing really, Scott thinks Cody is going to the movie with Allison just to let people see him with a girl.”
“Do you think he is?”
“I don’t know, Dad. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is.”
“So it is really over between you two?”
“Yeah, we’re good friends and that’s it. Between his church and his dad, he’s really screwed up about his sexuality. He wants to be straight, but we know he can’t all of a sudden decide to be something he isn’t.”
“How did you get so smart in fifteen years?” Allen put his arm around his son in affection. “Nancy and I are very proud of you.”
“Having great parents helps. I’m just glad that mom is good looking though. I still don’t know how you managed to ever get a date with her.”
“Everyone says that you look like your old man, so I guess that makes two of us who are ugly.”
The two continued their good natured bantering as they began preparing the evening meal. Nancy had a committee meeting at the university and would be late getting home. Allen was making bread while Jeremy chopped vegetables for a stir fry when Scott walked into the kitchen. He never used the front door and entered without knocking. He felt comfortable enough at the Morgan home that he thought of it as his second home.
“Hi Scott,” Allen said. “Grab yourself a drink out of the refrigerator and make yourself comfortable.”
“Thanks Allen.” Scott got a Coke out of the refrigerator. He sat back down, and then stood. He seemed to have something on his mind, but didn’t know where to begin. Finally he said, “Do you think Cody is gay?”
“What does Cody say?” Allen asked.
“He said that he’s straight.”
“Would it bother you if he was gay?”
“No, my best friend is gay.”
“Anybody, I know?” Jeremy asked, feeling that he was that friend.
“You, you dope.”
“Thanks Scott, I’m happy to have you as a friend.”
“Well do you think Cody is gay, straight or whatever?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Allen answered. Is something going on?”
“I think Cody is making a big mistake dating Allison if he is gay. I think he is just using her to show that he is straight. He’s so afraid that Dad will think he’s gay if he doesn’t show an interest in girls, and I think that’s why he is dating her. I think she’s full of herself, but I would hate to see him hurt any girl.”
“Have you talked to him about this?” Allen asked.
“I’ve tried, but he is getting more like Dad every day. They both quote the Bible like they really know what they’re talking about. They are just parroting what they hear the preacher say. I hate that church that Dad drags us to every Sunday.”
“I guess it is difficult for you,” Allen said.
“You know what is ironic; you guys aren’t regular church goers. But, here it is always relaxed and you all seemed to care about each other. I guess that’s why I like spending so much time here.”
“Scott, you’re always welcome here. Since you’re already here, would you like to have dinner with us?”
“I’ll have to call home and see if it is okay.”
“Go ahead and call. Nancy should be home shortly and well eat.”
“Allen, mom wants to talk to you,” Scott said as he handed the phone to Allen.
“Hi, Kay,” Allen said. “Sure, Scott and Cody are always welcome to eat with us. No, he isn’t imposing. He’s a pleasure to have around. Okay, Kay I’ll see that he gets home before dark. Goodbye.”
Scott became a regular at the Morgan dinner table. He and Jeremy were becoming best buddies. They worked out together regularly and Cody would join them on occasion.
Jeremy’s first wrestling match had him on pins and needles. He had been doing well in practice, but this was for real. It was a match with Muskogee, one of the top ten teams in the state. Jeremy was in the 145 weight class, a weight that had some of the best wrestlers in the state and even the country.
Jeremy’s match was the seventh match and Muskogee was up four matches to two. Jeremy’s opponent was a senior and the previous year’s runner-up for the state champion. He never really expected to win the match, but he didn’t expect his match to be a mismatch that it was. He was pinned just a minute and a half into the match.
“We didn’t win, but we weren’t totally out of the match,” Coach Chambers said in the locker room after the match.
“We would have done better, except Morgan flopped down for his guy like a girl,” Logan Henry said.
“Cut it out,” Coach said. “I didn’t see you try to take off ten pounds of flab so you could wrestle in that weight class. Next match is against Catoosa, and they’re very good again this year. I don’t care so much that you win at this stage, but I do expect to see improvement.”
“If Jeremy can make it past the first period, that would be an improvement,” Logan spouted off.
“Enough Logan, keep that up and you’ll discover that you’re off the team until you realize that we’re a team,” Coach said
“Well I guess your night was a waste of time,” Jeremy said as Allen started the car to drive home.
“No it wasn’t dear,” Nancy said. “Win or lose, we’re proud of you.”
Jeremy didn’t win the next match or even the next two. Logan continued to make snide remarks, but he made sure Coach Chambers wasn’t in hearing range. The team was waiting for Coach Chambers to finish a phone call one afternoon before practice when Logan said, “Jeremy, why don’t you drop off the team. You couldn’t whip my sister.”
Coach Chambers walked in before Jeremy could respond. “Jeremy, today I want you to practice against Logan.”
To Jeremy’s surprise, he held his own against Logan. Had there been scoring, he probably would have won. It did end Logan’s harassment of Jeremy.
“During your next match just pretend that your opponent is Logan,” Coach Chambers said to Jeremy. “If you can wrestle with that much intensity you’ll do just fine.”
Jeremy ended the wrestling season by winning more matches than he lost. He was truly looking forward to the next wrestling season. Even with his being busy with wrestling and choir, Jeremy managed to make the honor role.
Another school year would soon be ending when Nancy asked Jeremy on the way to school, “Are you ready for summer vacation?”
“Yes but I haven’t planned anything yet,” Jeremy said.
“You will be turning sixteen this summer, have you checked into enrolling in drivers’ education?” Allen asked.
“Crap, I forgot all about that, but I’ll do it today,” Jeremy said.
Much to Jeremy’s disappointment all of the driver’s education courses were full. “What am I going to do? Will I have to wait a whole year to get my license?” Jeremy questioned his dad.
“Let’s look online and see what the Oklahoma law is about taking driver’s education before getting a license,” Allen said. “When I got mine a driver’s education course wasn’t required.”
“Dad that was like a hundred years ago” Jeremy teased.
“Keep that up and you won’t live to see your sixteenth birthday,” Allen countered.
“You’ll have to admit you left yourself open for that one, Honey,” Nancy said.
“Hey Dad, did you know that Oklahoma has a Parent Taught Driver Education program?” Jeremy asked as he sat down for dinner.
“No, I didn’t know that,” Allen admitted. “How does it work?”
“I take an online course, and then I have to pass the written test. When I pass that, one of you will have to ride with me for fifty-five hours.”
“After dinner we’ll check it out and get you enrolled, and then your mother can ride with you.”
“I’d be pleased to ride with Jeremy,” Nancy said. “At least he didn’t drive into Linda Madden’s mother’s flower bed.”
“Hey, she was distracting me,” Allen confessed. “How did you know about that anyway?”
“Your mother told me,” Nancy said.
“Mom made me replant the flower bed and pay for the plants myself,” Allen said.
“Expensive date, wasn’t it dad?” Jeremy joined in.
“Hey is this gang up on dad night?” Allen protested. “Come on Jeremy and let’s find that Parent Taught Driver Education Program you were talking about.”
“Here it is,” Jeremy said. “I bookmarked it.”
“Ninety-nine dollars, this had better be worth it,” Allen said. “I don’t why they don’t just go ahead and say one hundred.”
After submitting the credit card information, Jeremy was enrolled in the online driver education course. He immediately began working on the course. One week before the end of school, he took and passed the written portion of his test. He now had a “learner’s permit.”
Jeremy was soon driving and only came near a ditch once. His mother was more tolerant of his mistakes than his father. They began having him drive on the roads near their house and then graduated to driving on the main highway, and then eventually the streets in town.
“How are they driving lessons going?” Annie asked Jeremy one day when he came to visit.
“Great, I think I can pass the driving test as soon as I’m sixteen and can take the test,” Jeremy said confidently.
“I need to go grocery shopping, why don’t you demonstrate your driving skills?”
“You want me to drive that old truck?”
“Of course, if you can drive that old thing you can drive anything.”
“Oh no!” Jeremy exclaimed when he got behind the steering wheel of the truck.
“It’s a stick shift. Mom and dad have automatics.”
“I learned to drive on a stick shift. Everybody needs to know how to drive one.”
Somehow under Annie’s directions, Jeremy managed to get them to the store with only a few grinding of the gears. The trip back home went more smoothly than the one into town. After helping Annie carry in the grocers she said, “Call your mom and dad and ask them to come for dinner.”
During dinner Annie said, “It’s good to have company for dinner. Food taste better when enjoyed with others.”
“Annie, there’s no reason for you to live alone, come and live with us.” Nancy said. “We have plenty of room.”
“Oh I couldn’t do that,” Annie said. “But thank you for the offer.”
“Why couldn’t you?” Allen asked. “Jeremy already thinks of you as his grandmother.”
“And he is like a grandson to me,” Annie said as she smiled at Jeremy while dishing him a generous helping of apple pie.
“Yeah Grandma, please come and live with us,” Jeremy said.
“I’m happy right here, but I do appreciate the offer,” Annie said. “It is good to have you close by. However, I’m still able to take care of myself for now.”
“It’s not about taking care of yourself,” Nancy said. “It’s about having someone around to talk to, and not being alone.”
“My husband would be gone for weeks at a time when he first started working for the oil company. I became used to being alone. It does mean a lot to me that you would offer your home to me.”
“Just remember that the offer will remain open if you ever change your mind,” Allen said.