Piano Forte

Chapter 6-Clashes

“Did you just make that up?” William asked after Austin finished playing his “Mary Had a Little Lamb” variations.
“No, me and my brother James worked on it together, but I wasn’t planning on playing it,” Austin replied. “We were just doing it for fun.”
“Does your brother play the piano?”
“He plays the guitar.”
“Sometimes I wish I played the guitar,” William said with a tinge of sadness. “Having a father and a grandfather who are famous pianists can really suck sometimes when you play the piano too. Nobody would probably give a fuck who they were if I played the guitar. There are a couple of guitarists who go to school here, but I don’t know if there are any at the camp. The best thing would be that I could carry my instrument with me.”
Mr. Boardman walked up on the stage where the boys were talking. “That was quite interesting, Austin. Where did you find those variations?”
“My brother and I made them up,” Austin answered. He looked for Christian on the floor and saw him with three other boys. “My brother and I made that up before I left, Christian,” he yelled out so he wouldn’t have to answer the same questions.
“Whatever you say, Austin.” Christian was hoping that William’s contrariness wasn’t rubbing off Austin. However, seeing William falling on the floor laughing made him think that maybe Austin was having an effect on William. Things seemed to be happening in a hurry since William rudely greeted Austin at the door.
“Hey, now that we’re talking to each other, let’s go to our room and get you unpacked,” William suggested. Austin agreed that it was a good idea. He thanked Mr. Boardman for letting him play the piano and thanked Christian for being a good guide.
“Remember to meet me at eleven tomorrow morning,” Christian said.
“Okay,” Austin said quickly before running to catch up to William who was already leaving the auditorium.
“Sorry to leave you behind, dude,” William told Austin after he caught up, “but around this place if you don’t move your ass in a hurry some people will talk you to death.”
“He was just reminding me of our meeting to go over some of the rules tomorrow morning.”
“That’s what the big meeting at two is supposed to be about. And I didn’t mean Christian as much as I meant Boardman.”
“Christian said our meeting was going to be with Tucker Zemke, who was supposed to arrive tomorrow morning at nine. And there’s the kid who missed meeting with me because I was with you. I don’t know his name but he’s a second-year camper. We are supposed to talk about the unofficial rules.”
“Oh yeah, the unofficial rules. Some sponsors make those a lot of fun and some don’t say anything about them. I’ve heard all those rules at school and at camps. I might go with you just to make sure he’s giving you the straight shit.” William checked his phone. “Let’s unpack your stuff fast so we have it done before dinner.
“Sounds good to me.”
William stayed a few steps ahead of Austin as they walked to their room. He was wondering what was happening to him. Why did he like playing the piano keyboard on Austin’s shirt so much? Why did his music have him down on the floor laughing his ass off? Why did he talk so much to a kid he had planned on hating? And why was he so eager to help the little shit unpack instead of trying to figure out how to kick his ass out of the room? William was very confused about the feelings roiling through him.
They reached their room and William opened the door.
It didn’t take long to unpack Austin’s luggage. William noted that he rolled his clothes the same as he did. He wondered if Austin’s mother showed him tricks of packing more clothes just like his own mother had. William could see that Austin’s clothes were not like the expensive, designer labels he wore, at least when he wasn’t required to wear his uniform. Still, his clothes were clean and looked new. He saw a lot of t-shirts and wondered if they were anything like the keyboard shirt Austin was wearing.
William unpacked the two suitcases and handed the clothes to Austin, who unrolled them and put them into the bureau’s drawers. He hung a couple of button-down shirts and his long pants in the closet. The two boys worked together to take Austin’s books and personal items out of the box he brought.
One of the items was a stuffed owl which Austin sat on top of his dresser. Since Austin had packed it thinking William was going to think he was a dork anyway, what did it matter that he had a stuffed animal to confirm that thought.
When William saw the owl, he was ready to give Austin grief, but changed his mind. After all, he had Wolf, his raggedy old teddy bear, sitting on his piano at home. It made him feel more peaceful when he played the instrument. There were times when he pounded on the keyboard of one of the practice pianos that he wished he had Wolf at school to calm his spinning brain down. So, for the time being he said nothing about Austin’s stuffed animal.
“I thought you didn’t want me as your roommate and now you want to help me? What gives with that?”
“I dunno. I guess I liked how you played ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’.”
“I thought I played Chopin better.”
“Maybe, but with ‘Mary’ you and your brother made up your own variations. That’s something that I could…” William was about to admit it was something he couldn’t do and stopped himself. “…it’s something I thought was cool to do.” Austin wondered what William had started to say.
“Okay, dude, let’s go take a look at the practice rooms and the classrooms.”
“Christian showed me where the classes are, and where the gym is, and where the games room is, and the swimming pool. He was taking me to the practice rooms but instead we ended up at the piano in the auditorium. I guess you can be my guide and my roommate,” Austin grinned.
“I can handle that, but Christian is still your sponsor.”
“I agree he should be. I like him a lot. Did you have a sponsor your first time at camp?”
“My first two times even though I was a regular student and didn’t really need one. That’s just how things work here. One thing I learned is once things are done a certain way changing anything takes an act of Congress, as my dad would say.”
The practice rooms were in the Delacroix Building on the third floor above the lecture hall and classrooms. They occupied a different wing than the auditorium. The two wings were separated by the auditorium lobby.
There were fifteen practice rooms which were virtually soundproof when the door was closed. Eight of the fifteen rooms had grand pianos. Austin noted that the pianos weren’t like the shiny instrument he had played in the auditorium, but after sampling a couple of the pianos he noted they had a good sound and were obviously kept in tune.
“The school has its own piano tuner,” William said after Austin asked him who tuned them. “His name is Mr. Turner and he is also a math teacher and teaches percussion, not that we have very many percussion students. He keeps the concert grand in the auditorium in tune, but twice a year or before a big program, the school brings in a big-time pro tuner who lives in Seattle. He’s my dad’s tuner and travels with dad when he is on the road for a concert.”
William explained that at camp everybody gets a weekly schedule for the practice rooms and can schedule their own time if they want as well. “Unless our teacher wants us working on something that needs a lot of time, we’re on our own for scheduling during the school year. The high school dorms have some practice rooms too, so it’s not as crowded as you think. They are mostly for juniors and seniors. The pianos are uprights or Spinets.”
“Did Christian tell you about the old auditorium?” William asked Austin as they left the Delacroix building.
“He did, but we never went to it,” Austin answered.
“Did he tell you what was in it?”
“He said there was an organ is all.”
“Yeah, a big pipe organ. Too bad the auditorium isn’t that big, although Mr. Boardman says that the place has great acoustics. It can hold maybe forty percent of what the new auditorium can.”
Austin was impressed with the old auditorium. It wasn’t as large, and the seats were wooden instead of cushioned like the new one, but it had atmosphere. The big organ was the centerpiece of the room. “Is there a piano in here?”
“Yeah, but it’s kept locked up. It’s the same as what we have in the practice rooms. Sometimes there are recitals in here, but this is used mostly for classes. You can see the fold away desktops for note taking. It can seat all of the students, but barely. My grandfather helped give the school a first-class place for concerts and recitals.” William didn’t think he was bragging; he was simply stating a fact.
“Isn’t it getting close to dinner?” Austin asked. “My stomach is growling.”
William checked his phone. “We still have enough time to change, but you’re right—the time just flew by.”
As they entered the dormitory courtyard, Michelle stopped William. Austin stopped behind him, curious who the pretty girl was. Michelle gave Austin the evil eye. “Who’s this boy hiding behind you?” she asked William snootily.
“This is Austin, my roomie.”
“Wow, he really is little.”
Austin, trying to maintain his temper, squeaked a greeting.
“This is Michelle,” William told Austin. “She can be kind of bitchy at times.” Austin braced himself waiting for an explosion from the girl.
“Is he as bad a piano player as you thought he’d be?”
William was embarrassed to have his words being thrown back at him in front of his new roommate. “He’s actually kinda good, better than I expected,” he told Michelle lamely.
“That’s not saying much since you thought he would be, like, beyond terrible.”
Austin was tired of listening to Michelle’s insults. Not only that, he was getting a pretty good idea of how William really felt about him. At that moment all the nice things his roommate had been doing for him seemed fake. “I gotta change for dinner,” Austin announced. “Nice meeting you, Michelle,” he said insincerely.
“Whatever,” Michelle said. As Austin turned to leave, he heard Michelle ask William if he wanted to spend the night in her room. “My roomie is going to sleep with Cindy Dowd, so you can stay all night.” Lorrie McKinley, Michelle’s roommate, was thirteen and from Eugene, Oregon. Cindy Dowd was fourteen and had just finished eighth grade at Bainbridge. “Cindy’s a lesbo, so you know what she wants to do with Lorrie.”
Austin was intrigued by the path the conversation was going. He had never thought of girls having sex with other girls.
“Did you warn your roommate what Cindy is like?” William asked.
“Why should I? She can find out for herself. It’s not, like, I’m her babysitter. Besides, if I don’t tell her, it would mean that this time you can spend the whole night because I bet Lorrie won’t be coming back tonight. Plus, if you’ve got, like, some weed, we can get high first.”
Austin walked away and missed what William had to say. He knew that he would be spending his first night at camp alone.
“I better not. I told Austin I’d help him with stuff tonight. I mean it is his first night and everything.”
“He’s just a little boy. What are you going to do, play with Go Fish with him or something? You got a whole month with him. Besides, you can send him to that lame faculty recital and then get away.”
“Well, you weren’t very nice to him.”
“Who cares? You sure don’t, since you let me say whatever I wanted about him. Anyway, everybody knows you hated him since you found out about him.”
William knew she had a point. He turned and looked for Austin, but he was no longer in the courtyard. “We’re going to go to dinner together. I already told him.” William thought of the sex he’d had with Michelle before and started to waffle. “Maybe after dinner I can call you and, you know, come over to your room.”
“No. Right now you’re going to agree to eat dinner with me and go to my room and have sex with me and sleep with me. If we can get high that’s cool, but if you can’t, like, get anything, that’s cool, too. But forget that little kid. You know being with me is better than being with him.”
Michelle was carrying things farther than even William could stand. He had called her a bitch in front of Austin and she hadn’t winced. She didn’t say anything because she knows I was right, that she is a cunt and a bitch, William thought.
William started for the door to the dorm. “I’ll see you later,” he said as he walked away.
“Don’t bother calling me. There’s a boy I met who plays the cello like me. He’s going into eighth grade and he’s, like, totally cute. His name is Leif and I know he wants me unlike some…hey, I’m not done talking to you.” William ignored her and entered the dorm, wondering why he’d had sex with her after she messed around with that high school kid. “Asshole,” she called out to the closed door, which gained her a couple of stares.
When William entered the room, Austin was unrolling a red polo shirt he had just taken out of one of the bureau drawers. William could see the sadness on his roommate’s face, which made him feel guilty.
“I guess you’re meeting her for dinner once you get the right shirt.” The camp dress code said that collared shirts had to be worn for dinner. During the school year, uniform shirts with collars were required dinner wear.
“Camp doesn’t officially start until tomorrow,” William replied, “so we can wear any kind of shirt we want tonight.” Without understanding why, William then said, “I kinda like that piano shirt you’re wearing right now.”
“You liked playing it, is what you mean.” Since William hadn’t commented on what he had just said, Austin repeated himself. “Right shirt or not, you are meeting her for dinner, right?”
“Her name is Michelle, and no I’m not meeting her for dinner.”
“Why not? You two were having a lot of fun talking about what a dweeb I am.”
“Well, I’m not meeting her for dinner because of what she said and because I should have told her to shut up, but I didn’t tell her because I was horny and forgot she’s nothing but a cunt,” William barked.
“Oh,” Aiden remarked quietly. “I thought you really didn’t like me even if you said you did and that’s why you never said anything.”
“I said some things, like you could play the piano pretty good, but I didn’t say what I should have said and I’m sorry, okay. Fuck, for somebody who doesn’t like to apologize for shit, I seem to be apologizing to you a lot.”
Austin sat on his bed and stared at the older boy who, for better or for worse, would be his roommate for four weeks. “You really do like me?”
“Yeah, I kinda do like you.” Once again William wasn’t definite about what it was he thought, a fact Austin didn’t fail to notice.
“Why do you like me?” Austin asked gloomily.
“Dammit dude, I like you, okay? I’m not like my grandfather or some of the wacko teachers in this joint where I sit around and look for my inner fucking self. I mean I knew why I hated you and spent too much time hating you until well, until you touched that keyboard. I haven’t had time to figure out why the fuck I like you.”
While Austin wasn’t averse to using expletives, he was getting irritated by William’s spitting one out almost every time he opened his mouth. While he never hated William, but wasn’t quite sure if he liked William. He needed time to figure that out, just as William needed time to figure things out.
“But, okay, let me figure this shit out. First, you play the piano way better than I ever though you would. So far, you’re almost as good as me, and you’re two years younger. And, well, second you’re a nice kid. Plus, you didn’t take my bullshit, although I could tell you were ready to cry. You would have been toast if you’d cried, because I would have tried to make your life shitty.” William paused for a moment, then quietly added, “And on top of all that, you’re kinda cute.”
Before Austin could reply William plunked himself on the bed next to the young redhead. “And last, you were right. I like playing the piano on your chest.” William placed his fingers on the keyboard along the chest of Austin’s t-shirt and let his fingers roam the keys, humming to himself as he did so. Shit, this is giving me a boner, William thought.
Austin thought what William was doing felt better than when he played the t-shirt in the auditorium. He thought it might be because he was doing it longer.  What Austin didn’t consider was that in the auditorium William running his fingers along Austin’s shirt was an impulsive act, and this time it was a purposeful act done with forethought.
Austin could feel his little pecker harden in his shorts. “Your fingers playing on my chest like that feels weird,” Austin said scratchily.
“Now you know how a piano feels when you play its keyboard,” William giggled. “You’re just lucky the keyboard is up by your chest and not at your belly, because playing your belly would feel like this!” He sat on Austin’s legs and ran his fingers across the blank bottom of the t-shirt like he was playing the scales. He was doing his best to make his fingers tickle Austin and he knew his tickling was succeeding when Austin’s loud laughter filled the room. William wondered what was going on. He hadn’t done tickling games since he was ten and he thought they were boring even then.  
William kept the tickling session short. When he messed around with Kevin or with Jonas or Chad, or even with Michelle, he didn’t do stuff like tickle or make out. It was jerk off, suck, or with Kevin and Michelle, fuck. The only foreplay he did with any of them was feel up Michelle’s boobs. But what he did with Michelle wasn’t messing around, it was serious sex. 
And now, he was straddling his new roommate, tickling him into hysterics, and it was making his cock rock hard. William had only known Austin for a few hours and here he was getting weird with a boy two years younger who he was supposed to hate.
William wanted to slide his hand under Austin’s t-shirt so badly he knew it was time for the tickling to come to a stop. He hopped off the bed, standing straight up and hoping Austin didn’t notice the bulge in his shorts. “It’s about time we washed up for dinner and head for the cafeteria,” William said, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred.
They washed up and walked to the dining hall, which was what the cafeteria was officially called. They went through the line, found a table, set their trays down, and went to the drink dispensers.
When they sat back down Christian walked up with a boy Austin and William didn’t recognize. He was skinny with almost glowing blond hair, a spotless face, and a gorgeous smile.
“Hey, guys,” Christian said, “this is Leif Anderson. He’s the second-year camper I was late in meeting. And Leif, this is William and Austin.”
Leif grinned and fist bumped William and Austin. “I know Austin is the reason Christian had to meet with me later, but he said you have everything worked out.”
“Yeah, I guess it’s okay,” Austin said, not knowing how much Christian had told Leif about his problem with William when they first met.
William had a moment of confusion as he wondered why Austin sounded unsure about the status of their issues. “I think we got it all worked out,” he said, just to be sure Austin knew how he felt.
“Do you mind if we sit with you?” Christian asked. Since all the campers had not yet arrived, there was plenty of space to sit in the dining area. Even with a full complement of campers the tables wouldn’t come close to filling.
“No problem,” Austin and William said in unison.
“Whoa, that was a perfect entry,” William grinned.
“Time for a piano duet,” Austin giggled.
“Thanks, and we’ll be right back,” Christian said. He and Leif headed to the cafeteria line to get their dinners. William and Austin both thought Leif was incredibly cute. When William thought a boy was cute, he tried to imagine the boy was a girl who had similar looks since thinking a boy was cute was, well, way too gay. That strategy didn’t work when he looked at Austin. The only image he could come up with was Austin’s bright red hair, his smooth, lightly freckled face, and the flat chest he enjoyed treating as a keyboard.
Austin, on the other hand, thought the boy was cute, whatever that meant. Austin often wondered if he was gay since the cute boys caught his eye more than any girl did. He and James often kidded around about Austin’s outlook on boys and his feelings about Oliver. “He’s just a friend I jerk off with just like you’re just a brother I jerk off with and Frank is a friend you jerk off with,” Austin would insist which would lead James to grabbing his cock and making him hard. James was such a great big brother that Austin wondered if maybe it was time for him to ask his brother if he could be gay and what he should do about it.
Christian and Leif returned with their trays full of food. They set them down and went over to the drink dispensers. Christian returned with a glass of lemonade while Leif had a Coke.
The boys spent some time getting to know each other. William knew he had heard the name Leif at some time during the day but couldn’t quite place where. Then an alarm bell went off in his head when Leif said he played the cello. Michelle plays the cello, he thought, and didn’t she say…
William’s thoughts were interrupted by Leif saying, “…and then I met this really cool girl who plays the cello and she said…”
That set a whole bevy of alarm bells ringing in William’s brain. “Was her name Michelle?” he said, interrupting Leif.
The discussion now had Austin’s full attention.
“Um…yeah, do you know her?” Leif asked as he tried to pull his thoughts back together.
“I know her,” William said bitterly.
“It sounds like you’re not friends.”
“Not anymore.”
“What did she do to you?” Christian asked. “I thought she was a nice girl when I’d seen her around school.” Not to mention she’s a real looker, he thought, but he didn’t need to tell William and Leif that; they had eyes.
 “I thought she was nice, too, until she wasn’t. And that’s all I have to say about her.”
“Well, she invited me to meet her in the lounge on her floor of the dorm at seven,” Leif said. “I probably should see what she’s like and make up my own mind about her.”
“Good idea,” Christian said. “Judge her for yourself.” He glared at William, his eyes telling him to stay out of something that wasn’t any of his business.
William shrugged and said he was going to the dessert table. He just met Leif and as far as he was concerned, whatever happened between the cute blond boy and the bitch Michelle was Leif’s problem, not his. Whoa, why am I thinking a boy is cute, William thought. He grabbed a slice of chocolate cake and brought it back to the table, passing Austin on the way. Austin returned with a slice of apple pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
“No chocolate cake? What kind of pianist are you?” William joked.
“One who loves pie ala mode,” Austin replied trying unsuccessfully to sound serious.
“I guess I’m going to have to teach you more than how to play the piano properly.”
“You guys sound like you’ve known each other for a while,” Leif observed.
“They just met after lunch today,” Christian told him. “And you should have seen them when they first saw each other. They were fighting like a couple of alley cats.”
“You mean slugging it out?” Leif didn’t think that sounded like something serious musicians would do.
“Nope. It was just a bunch of snarling, hissing, and yowling with their backs arched and their fur standing up.” Christian yowled like a cat and swiped the air with his right hand like it was a cat’s paw.
Leif looked at the two and nodded his head. “I can see that—the tough little cat making a lot of racket to let the big cat know how tough he is.”
“I think it was more the other way around,” Christian laughed.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve finished my dessert.” Austin had heard enough and was ready to bus his tray and go to his room. William stood up at the same time as Austin and felt the same way.
“Hey, I hope we didn’t make you guys mad,” Leif said apologetically. “We were just having some fun getting to know you.”
“It’s cool,” William said without conviction. He found himself liking Leif, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be part of any more of the fun Leif and Christian were having at his and Austin’s expense.
“Nice meeting you, Leif,” Austin said politely. Leif nodded but said nothing.
“Remember eleven tomorrow,” Christian reminded Austin.
“Okay.” Austin was tired of being treated like a little kid.
Austin and William bused their trays and headed for their room. They said nothing to each other until after entering the room.
“Are you going to the faculty recital?” William asked. The faculty members were staging a recital for the students who arrived early.
“Yeah. Christian said it was a good idea to go and see who the teachers are. What about you?”
“I’ve heard them all play.” When it came to the keyboard, William felt he could play better than any of them, even Dr. Boardman, who was considered one of the best pianists in the state. If he’s so good, what’s he doing teaching at this dump?” William thought. “What they should do for entertainment is play a movie instead of that dumb recital. The auditorium is a great place for watching movies and making out.”
“I didn’t know they show movies in there.”
“Yeah, they have one every Saturday during the school year. They’ll show a couple here at camp, too. They’re old and dumb, but helps keep us quiet, I guess.”
Austin opened and investigated his closet. “Should I wear a better shirt?”
“During the school year, yeah. They’re strict about dumb shit like that, but at camp they actually treat us like we’re human. Besides, the teachers will love that shirt.”
“Did you really make out watching a movie in the auditorium?” Austin asked as he sat on his bed.
William looked at Austin’s shirt and fought off an urge to jump on him and tickle him again. “Hey, I wasn’t alone—it’s make-out heaven in there. As long as you keep your clothes on the proctors look the other way. I made out with Michelle and one other girl whose name I forgot.”
“How can you make out with a girl and forget her name?”
“I was in seventh grade. How am I supposed to remember that kind of shit?”
“I dunno. I mean, you kissed her and stuff, so you should at least remember her name.”
“How many girls have you made out with?”
Austin hesitated, wondering if he should tell the truth. After all, he had made out with James and Oliver, so if he said two it wouldn’t be a total lie. If he said two, William would probably like him more. But, he still wasn’t sure how much he trusted his roommate, so he told the truth. “None.”
“Not even a kiss?”
Austin shook his head, his face red with embarrassment. Maybe I should have lied, he thought.
“And you’re twelve, right?” Austin nodded. “Fuck dude, you are a dorky nerd. I mean by twelve, you got to have kissed somebody.”
I have. I’ve kissed James and Oliver, though I don’t know if kissing your brother counts, he thought. But what he said was, “Just because I’ve never kissed a girl doesn’t make me a dork.” He decided to specify that he hadn’t kissed a girl instead of saying he hadn’t kissed anyone at all.
“If I say it makes you a dorky nerd, then it makes you a dorky nerd,” William said, his haughty attitude returning. “I thought because you play the piano pretty good and you wear a cool t-shirt, I thought you were cool. But now I can see I’ve been right about you all the time, you’re a little dorky nerd.”
William hoped that by giving Austin a well-deserved hard time his desire to jump him on his bed, run his hand under his cool t-shirt, and rub his belly and chest would leave. That ended up not being the case. Even worse, thinking about jumping his roomie had given him an unwanted erection.  Trying to be mean to him had not caused it to go down; it just ended up making him feel bad. He decided to see what adding one last jab would do to change the weird thoughts in his head.
“I bet you don’t even jerk off. You’re just a little boy who doesn’t know what his little pecker is really for. Now go and enjoy the dorky teachers while I use my big cock for what it was made for.”
Austin fought back tears as he glared at William. “You said you liked me and I believed you, but you lied. You should have just stuck to being an ass waffle like you were when I first came in the room.” He got up from his bed. “I’m gonna go get me a good seat and you can go find some girl you don’t know to make out with so you can be totally cool. See, ya.” Austin stomped out the door not knowing what he had done to make William’s mood change so quickly.
Next: A New Friend