That night at home, Sammy sat staring at his math homework, but it wasn't algebra which held his train of thought. For most of his young academic life, he had been shunned by his classmates. Not because they didn't like him, none of them actually took the time to get to know him, all because of one boy and those that followed him. That situation seemed to be changing now.
For years he had known he was different, and he embraced it. He didn't moan about it and asked why me. Instead, he learned as much as he could about his heritage. His uncle, Akecheta Chatan (Warrior Hawk), had been his mentor since he began to ask questions about his mother and her people, all with his father's blessing.
He believed he had found peace with the situation he had had to endure at school. If the Great Spirit in the Sky wanted him to learn how to survive on his own at school, who was he to question it? However, the events of the last few days had thrown the young boy off some. It wasn't the fact he might be gay that had him thinking, for being of two spirits (gay) had been honored in the old Indian traditions. No, it was the friendships he appeared to be making. All because of the game he loved. Baseball. Within those friendships, a feeling deeper than friendship may be emerging.
He had come to care for Tony. He was also worried for his friend. Tony's brother still hadn't been found and taken into custody. Evan had nearly killed Tony, all because of who Tony wanted for a mate. He didn't understand why it mattered to people who someone else loved. When is love ever wrong? Didn't Jesus preach love? Weren't the two new commandments He gave to love God and your fellow man? It made no sense to Sammy. Yet, he knew if he explored these new feelings he had, it would cause trouble for him at school and probably for whoever he shared those feelings with. That thought brought the image of Mike to his mind.
Mike was a year behind him in school and probably a year or so younger, but whenever Sammy was near him or thought of him, his pulse would quicken and his stomach felt funny. He wasn't sure what it meant yet, but he wanted to learn more about this boy who made his heart race and explore these feelings running through him. But, and it was a huge but, he didn't know if Mike was gay or not. What's worse, he didn't have a clue on how to find out. Should he just walk up to Mike and ask him? Or should he tell Mike he thought he might be gay. As he thought about the situation, he realized he had no experience in these matters to draw on.
His thoughts returned to Tony. He knew Tony was gay for he had told Sammy so. He also had a feeling Tony just might have an attraction to him. It wasn't that Sammy didn't find Tony attractive. He was. But Tony had started to feel more like a friend should. Well, ever since Sammy had met Mike, that is. Then again, Sammy had no experience to help determine what he felt about either boy; and that frustrated him. He could ask his dad for advice, but he felt this was something he would have to figure out for himself. Somehow.
Andy Collins came to mind. Sammy could ask him. Andy made it clear he was gay and in a relationship. Plus Andy, Roger, and Joey offered friendship, or he thought they had. Sammy wasn't too sure about it when he thought back on the words spoken by Andy, except the boy had told Brent off after Brent insulted Sammy. No one had ever done that for him before, not counting adults. That was what helped Sammy make a decision. He would talk to Andy.
No sooner than he had reached a solution, Sammy began to have the feeling what he needed the most was a vision quest. To the Lakota Nation, this way of praying is very important; in fact, it's at the very center of the Lakota religion. His uncle had taught him every man can cry for a vision, or "lament", and in the old days, all- men and women- lamented all the time. Lakota tradition taught a person's character determines, in part, what he or she receives, for only the most qualified receives the great visions. The visions are then interpreted by a holy man, because a vision quest can give both strength and health to the Lakota Nation as a whole. However, Sammy knew very little about the ceremony and he didn't know any holy men that lived near Pine Hills.
While he was still determined to talk with Andy, and would, tomorrow at school, Sammy left his math homework and went to the living room to call his uncle, Akecheta Chatan, he would know what Sammy would need do to go on a vision quest.
"Uncle Hawk, I need some help, please," Sammy said after his uncle answered the phone.
"Nephew, it is good to hear your voice." Hawk replied. A smile could be heard in his voice. "How may I be of help, my Little Thunder?"
"I've lost my center, which has caused confusion." Sammy sighed.
"What is it you seek, Little Thunder?" Hawk's tone turned serious.
"Uncle, I seek a vision. I need a vision quest, but I don't know any holy men near here to help me in this quest." Sammy said nearly exasperated.
"My dear little one, I do not know any myself that lives near you. Give me a few days to make some phone calls and I'll get back to you, okay?" Uncle Hawk said hopefully.
"Yes, Sir. That would be awesome." Sammy felt his spirits lift a little.
"How are things at school?" Hawk asked, trying to find the root of Sammy's problem.
"Well, that's just it, Uncle Hawk. They are looking better. I'm making friends, I think for the first time ever, but I'm not sure if they are real friends or people that like me just for how I play baseball." Sammy sighed. "That's part of my confusion."
"Sammy, I'll start making those calls as soon as we hang up. Until I get back to you, just follow your heart. Remember your character has been built on a good foundation. Trust yourself to do what's right."
"Okay. I will. I'll be talking tomorrow with a person I believe is someone who will be a great friend. I think it will help, but my spirit still cries out to me for a vision quest."
"It's time for your quest. We'll talk soon my little thunder." Hawk said with the love clearly in his voice.
"Bye, uncle," Sammy said as he hung up the phone. Then he leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. He felt like things were looking up, but he wanted to be sure to make the right decisions.
Mike sat at his desk staring at nothing, lost in thought. His thoughts the past few weeks have centered on one boy. Why a boy? He couldn't figure it out and had no one to ask. Even though he and his brother, James, were close, he didn't feel like this was one topic open to discussion. Mike had never been all that interested in girls before, but he had never been attracted to another boy either. However, this one boy occupied his thoughts continuously throughout the day, and especially at night, when the world around him was quiet, and he was alone with no one but his thoughts.
He admired Sammy Day. Thunder. He thought Sammy's middle name was perfect for the dark hair, brown-eyed boy. Sammy had taken a lot of senseless abuse through-out his life. Yet, it didn't seem to Mike it had prevented Sammy from being exactly who he was suppose to be. Yes, Sammy was a quiet boy and appeared to keep to himself, but Mike had heard his brother say that Sammy never turned anyone down from helping them with their classwork. Mike reasoned it meant Sammy had a good heart. The more he heard about Sammy, the more he liked him.
But it wasn't all Mike found fascinating. Mike had trouble at looking away from Sammy's strong hard body and movie star looks. Sammy didn't dress fancy in all brand name clothes, but at the same time, everything he wore seemed to be perfect for him. And to Mike, the tight baseball pants made Sammy's strong legs and bubble butt stand out. He had never thought about another boy's butt before, but it was torture to tear his eyes away from Sammy's.
Mike knew what this probably meant, he just wasn't ready to face it yet. His mind drifted back to his brother, James. James had never been vocal about gays, and when he thought about it, James hadn't even made any jokes about gays. Maybe he could talk to James. Maybe.
Tony was happy for Sammy and the good game he had, but he hated he didn't get to play. Baseball was one of the times where he felt like one of the boys. Even when he stole looks at the other players and Pine Hills had some really good looking baseball players. He felt lucky that no one tried to start anything with him today. He couldn't believe word had spread so quickly, even in this small town.
But it was what it was, and there was no going back now. Plus, there was the problem of his brother. No one seemed to know where he was. The word from Lexington was he wasn't at any of his friends' apartments, nor were his friends talking to the authorities. Tony thought the friends Evan had been making of late weren't the greatest crowd to be running with, but to help him, said a lot about them. Which made him feel really good about becoming friends with Sammy, even if he was attracted to him, as well. He would just have to control his feelings.
The cool early spring air sent a shiver through his body as he sat on the back porch. He looked up the hillside, then closed his eyes and saw the fists raining down on him as he tried uselessly to fend them off. He had rolled over and balled up. Then the kicks began to his side and head. How could his own brother hate him so much? Reliving that moment caused the tears to flow. He couldn't stop the tears, but he refused to cry. Emboldened by the new friendship, he opens his eyes, stood, and turned his back on the cruelty his brother had shown him. as he walked back into the safety of his home.
He wouldn't push Sammy, he would be happy with and cherish the friendship offered.
Judge Collins glanced over at his son, Andy. He was sitting on the couch with Joey leaned into him, resting his head on Andy's shoulder. Beside them sat Roger, Andy's best friend. They had been watching Sports Center on ESPN. The topic that had drawn their attention was hosts talking about Kentucky still being undefeated in men's college basketball and their chances of running the table through the National Tournament.
"Dad, what's the latest on Evan Thompson?" Andy asked.
The question brought Judge Collins out of his thoughts about how happy Andy looked with Joey, even though he knew Andy felt sick most of the time with the chemo treatments. "They are still searching for him. The boy isn't bright enough to hide forever. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I like Tony and I told him today that I would be there for him, if he needed me."
At that moment JT and Cody walked in laughing at some witty comment Cody had made, but hearing Andy's comment JT turned serious. "I heard something tonight that didn't sound good." JT sat down in the chair across from Andy and sighed. "Did you and Brent have some words today?"
Andy straightened up, causing Joey to sit up as well. Andy leaned forward and said, "Yes, we did. He called Sammy Day a half-breed, and I told him to knock it off. I also told the coach about it. Why?"
Cody sat down in between Andy's legs with his back against the couch, totally interested in the direction this conversation was taking. Andy patted his shoulder to reassure him all was okay.
"Peter Sears, the senior tackle on the football team called me tonight and said Brent was trying to get some of the team to take out the queers on the baseball team. Peter wanted to know what I thought about Sammy Day and Tony Thompson. He also said that your name had been mentioned."
Roger suddenly jumped to his feet. "And what was your reply, JT? And why are you just now telling us?"
"Roger!" Judge Collins said in his judge voice and then in a softer voice, "There'll be none of that. Let's hear JT out. Please take a seat."
Roger dropped his head like a scolded dog and sat down, as JT said, "Everyone knows that Andy and Joey are off limits, unless they want to take me on, too." He smiled at Roger and added, "Roger as well."
"Hey! Me, too!" Cody said and looked back at Andy.
JT grinned at Cody. "Cody, too. I asked Peter if he knew what was going on and he told me some rumor going around school about Sammy and Tony being boyfriends. I told him who cares who sleeps with whom. Which caused him to laugh and said he didn't care, besides, that left fewer boys to worry about with the girls." JT frowned. "But Peter pointed out that Brent's dad is on the school board and could get some of the boys to help him out with the situation, unless causing problems for Tony and Sammy would be more trouble than it was worth."
"I see," Andy said.
"I told Peter that I didn't know Sammy Day, but I thought Tony was cool, even if his brother was an asshole." JT looked sheepishly at Judge Collins. "Sorry."
Judge Collins waved the comment off. "I think you handled the conversation well, JT." The judge thought some of the long-buried and some not buried preachers of the area must be or would be turning over in their graves, if they knew how many gay boys lived here now.
"Anyway," JT started. "I don't think Andy has any worries, but if those two are friends of yours," JT glanced at Andy, "we might need to watch out for them. I don't know if Brent can get anyone to take a chance of getting kicked out of school their senior year, but he might get one or two of the juniors to."
Everyone was looking at Andy, but he paid them no mind as he thought the situation through. Should he let Sammy and Tony know what was up? Of course, he'd have to. He wasn't afraid of Brent, JT was more of a physical threat than Brent would ever be and Andy took him on. But now, Andy was half the boy he had been before the chemo. They would need to play this one smartly, because they couldn't get suspended from school either. They had his father to think about and his run for governor. It hadn't started yet, but it had to be in consideration.
"Okay, here's what we should do. I'll let Sammy and Tony know Brent is trying to stir up trouble. Each of us has a cell with a cam. We'll keep an eye out for trouble and videotape it if it happens."
Judge Collins nodded. "Sounds like a wise course of action."
Andy stood, stepped around Cody, walked over to JT and hugged him. "Thanks, JT." Joey joined the hug and thanked him, too. Roger patted JT on the shoulder, as Cody joined the hug fest. The judge smiled at how his family was coming together.