Sunday morning after an early breakfast, mom asked me to join her, Andy and Greg in the living room for a 'family chat'. Yeah, right.
"Andy and I have discussed the business about you and that old man," she began, "and we both agree that you're placing yourself in a dangerous situation. In fact, this whole Muscle Teen thing is a bad idea, and we want you to quit."
"But, mom! I've got three cars to wash today!"
"In shorts?" Andy asked. "Don't you think that being half naked is provocative?"
"If you hired a plumber, wouldn't you expect him to bring his tools? Our muscles are our tools. That's the whole idea of the business. It's a marketing strategy, and it's working its ass off!"
"Daniel," mom resumed, "I'm afraid a lot of this has been my fault… allowing you and your friends to run naked around the house has given you the impression that nudity is quite normal. There are certain community standards that you don't seem to appreciate, and I blame myself for that."
"Mom? Is this you talking? Pop gives me a $20 tip and suddenly you've raised me the wrong way? You wanna start over? You gonna put diapers on the shopping list?"
"Don't talk back to your mother," Andy barked.
"When? 'Cause I'm not talking back… this is a discussion… or can't you tell the difference?"
"There's nothing to discuss," mom continued. "Andy and I want you to quit Muscle Teen, and we forbid you to see that old man again. Is that understood?"
"Perfectly. You're right and I'm wrong. I'll put my brain into neutral. From now on, you guys can do all the thinking for me. Congratulations. Your son is dead, but you've got a robot. Cool, huh?" I turned my attention to Greg. "Thanks a bunch, bro. Your paranoia has won."
"Daniel!" mom shouted as I stormed outa the room. "Come back here!"
I was sitting on my bed wondering what the fuck had happened to my world when there was a knock at my door. "Daniel?" It was mom's voice.
"There's nothing to discuss, remember? I'm a robot."
"Daniel," she said as she entered my room, "you're behaving very strangely. What's the matter with you?"
"I'm behaving strangely? Hey! I haven't changed at all! You're the one who's changed!"
Mom sat on the bed beside me, and put her arm around my shoulders. "Son, sometimes parents have to do things that their children don't approve of. It's for your own good."
"So when I'm an adult, I'll know what's good for me?"
"Exactly. You'll have the benefit of experience."
"And Pop doesn't?"
"Daniel, I don't understand your obssession with this man. What did he say to you to make you so rebellious?"
"Nothing. He understands me, that's all."
"Understands you? In a day? Daniel, that's ridiculous! I'm your mother. I've known you since… well, since you were still in my womb. If anybody knows you, it's me."
"There's a lot you don't know about me, mom, and probably a lot you don't wanna know."
"Oh? What did that man do to you?"
It took mom quite a while to respond to my brief answer as she gazed into my eyes. "Listened? Listened to what?"
"Stuff about me that I could never tell you."
"Mom… you're my mom for Christ sake. You expect me to be this or that. It's like I can't be myself 'cause you'd be disappointed. And it's not just me… a lotta guys are the same… there's a lotta stuff they'd never tell their folks. Did you tell your folks everything?"
Again, mom took a long time to respond. "No, I must admit, I didn't tell them everything. There were certain things about me that I suspected they wouldn't approve of, so I kept them to myself."
"And you didn't tell your friends?"
"Oh, yes, I told my friends. Well, some friends."
"Is it stuff that you've never told me?"
"Is this the kind of conversation you had with the old man?"
"Daniel, would you answer this question honestly… have I misjudged you?"
"It's not just you, mom. Greg was the one who started it, then he told Andy, and the whole thing got outa hand."
"Listen, how about I have a chat with Andy while you phone the old man. Ask him if he'd like to come here for lunch. Do you think he would?"
"He's a bit of a loner, but I think he would if I asked him. But what about the three cars I've gotta wash?"
Greg couldn't believe his luck at getting the car-washing jobs, even though I insisted that he pay me 10% commission. Meantime, I'd convinced mom that I should blade around to Pop's house and invite him to lunch personally, rather than phone.
"Chill, Pop, I've got mom's permission. Hey, you wanna come to our house for lunch?"
"Well, I'm in the middle of a story, and…"
"We've got a pool... and I skinny dip."
"I suppose the story can wait. Are you sure it's OK with your folks?"
"Mom asked me to invite you… and don't worry… she's cool. You're not gonna wear a towel, though. Are you?"
Pop looked pretty respectable in his blue, long-sleeve shirt, jeans, and black, ankle-high boots as I introduced him to mom and Andy out back in the barbecue area. "Just call me Pop," he grinned. "Can I help prepare the food or something?"
"It's all been taken care of," mom smiled. "Just relax. You're our guest."
"Wanna come for a swim first?" I asked as I stripped, and tossed my shorts on the lawn. "Last one in's a dickhead."
I'd been swimming for about five minutes when Pop joined me in the pool, wearing his boxers. He looked like an Adonis who'd been battered by a hurricane, then trampled by a herd of elephants. "Your mother's a very nice woman. I like Andy, too… although he seemed somewhat uncomfortable."
"What were you talking about?"
"Nothing much… just small talk."
"Cool, 'cause I wanna be there when you talk about me."
"Speaking of you, would you please stop getting out of the pool, and diving back in?"
"But I always do that!"
"Not while I'm here. I don't want your parents to see me gawking."
"It's neat when you gawk," I laughed.
"And stop teasing me!"
"You love it, Pop." And with that, I swam to the edge of the pool, planted one foot on the decking, spread my buns to give Pop a good look at my hole and hangers, then heaved myself outa the water.
As we sat around the barbecue table, eating our lunch of butterflied pork chops, steamed potatoes in their jackets, topped with sour cream and chives, tossed salad, and fresh, crusty bread, the convo meandered all over the place, constantly missing the point of Pop's invitation to lunch. He was there for a reason, but everybody seemed to be ignoring the obvious.
"I feel silly calling you Pop," Andy said after a lull in the convo.
"Silly is fine," Pop grinned. "It's my 11th commandment. Thou shalt be silly. May I say something?"
"You people don't really know me, yet you've invited me to your home, and treated me to lunch. It seems rather odd."
"You're right," Andy said as he placed his knife and fork beside his plate, then dabbed his mouth with a napkin. "'Rather odd' is a good choice of words."
"This is excellent Chardonnay."
"This morning, we forbad Daniel to see you again, but he managed somehow to convince Nancy that you were OK. To be honest, I'm still not convinced."
"That's your prerogative. Could I have a little more salad please?"
"The point is, our son was at your house, naked!"
"And now I'm at your house, and he's still naked."
"OK, let’s stop playing games. Do you have a sexual interest in my son?"
"Is your son sexy? Yes, he is. Very. Superb salad, Nancy."
"You're evading the question," Andy insisted.
"Are you sexually attracted to my son?"
"That settles it, then. I was right all along. Pop or Ned or whatever your stupid name is, you're not welcome here, and I'd be obliged if you left this house immediately."
"Before I go, Andy, may I ask you a question? Is it possible, remotely possible, that I respect Daniel far too much to inflict myself upon him sexually? And is it also remotely possible that I have far too much self-respect to even consider demeaning my own standards of behaviour by entertaining thoughts such as you suggest?"
"You're talking intellectual bullshit."
"Am I? Do you have such little faith in Daniel's ability to judge people that you need to wrap him in cotton wool? Do you honestly think that Daniel is lacking the intelligence or gut-feel to sus me out? To decide for himself whether I'm a friend or foe?"
"You're missing the point! It's not natural for a boy and man your age to be friends."
"May I ask why not?"
"You really are crazy! You know that?"
"I'm sure that's one of the things Daniel likes about me."
"Hey, Andy," I intervened, "this whole argument is about one thing… me. You know what you're saying? You're saying that I don't have the brains to figure anything out for myself… like I'm some dummy who wouldn't know his ass from his elbow. You think you know me, but you don't. And you wanna know something else? Pop knows me. Yeah! Does that surprise you? He knows me, and you guys don't. Actually, that's not quite true. Greg knows me, too. That's probably why he got so damn paranoid."
Mom swallowed a piece of pork before it was properly chewed, and almost choked. "What are you saying, Daniel?"
"It's like you told me today, mom. You kept secrets from your folks 'cause you didn't wanna risk spoiling their expectations."
"Ah!" Pop exclaimed. "Expectations! That's the key word. You have expectations of Daniel based on what you know. The problem is, what you know may not be the full story. Therefore, your expectations may be, to some degree, based on ignorance, and ignorance is an unstable foundation, which ultimately leads to disappointment."
"What the hell are you saying?" Andy demanded.
"Simply this. The world was never flat despite popular opinion. Thanks for the lunch and the Chardonnay. I won't bother you again."
"Mom! Andy! Do something! You can't let this happen! Pop's our guest! Say something! Pop? Don't leave! Please? We can figure this out… somehow."
Mom picked up the bottle of Chardonnay and filled Pop's glass. "I think Daniel's right, Pop. We need to talk."
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Diary Part 139