Chapter 2, The Early Years, Early Spring 1988, A New Tormentor
“Jooooeee! Jooooeee!” came the taunting call. Joey Beebe looked across the playground and saw his ever-present tormentors.
‘What slobs,’ he thought as he saw his tormentors across the playground. Then he noticed a third tormentor.
‘Shit,’ he thought, ‘that’s all I need. I have enough problems with those two. I don’t need another one joining in. I wonder who the other one is?’
He then realized it was that new guy who had arrived the previous day. He was in the classroom across the hall where one of the two assholes resided when school was in session.
Joey ducked into the building and headed to his classroom. He knew he was early and might be asked to go back outside until the play period was over; however, it was worth the risk just to stay away from those two creeps. ‘Why are they so mean to me? I have never done anything to them. They just wouldn’t leave me alone. They called me a ‘fairy’ and ‘faggot’ and if I can’t avoid them in the halls they push me into the walls.’
He really dreaded going to the restroom. Because his “equipment” was so small, he had to stand very close to the urinals, the old type that came up from the floor, and twice they had pushed him while he was attempting to urinate. Once he lost hold and ended up urinating in his pants and had to go home to change. Another time they actually pushed his head against the back wall of the urinal. He almost threw up that time.
He had been so small at birth that the physicians decided against circumcision until he was much older. After a while, his parents stopped thinking about having it done. Joey never experienced any problems and as he got older, his parents came to realize the operation was not a matter of necessity but primarily a matter of custom.
‘Okay, so I can’t play baseball. I know I throw like a girl.’ In spite of all the help from his dad, he just couldn’t make it work. At bat, he was lucky to get a loud foul ball. He’d even tried to hide out in the lunch area and not be around when teams were chosen. That worked for a while, but one of the teaching assistants found him and dragged him out to the field and he was told he had to play and ‘be part of the team’.
Why be a part of the team if he couldn’t play correctly? He caught abuse if he played and he got in trouble if he didn’t. He couldn’t catch, he couldn’t throw and if he tried, they just laughed at his bungled attempts.
The girls were much nicer to him. Sometimes, they would try to drag him out. He could jump rope okay and he was okay at kick ball. However, if he tried to join them, the boys just called him a sissy or ‘girly’. If Billy and Freddy were around, they would start their “Jooooeee, Jooooeee” chant and then call him a fairy or a faggot.
At first Joey didn’t understand the taunts. He went to his mother after a particularly hard day at school and asked her.
“Joey, some people have nothing better to do than make fun of those who are maybe not as physically adept as they. They want to draw attention away from their own shortcomings. They are probably jealous of the fact that you get some of the best grades in your class and are a better artist and musician.”
Joey could already play the piano quite well and really loved it. He had taken to it like a duck to water and sometime spent hours not just practicing but making music. After school he would often go to his parents’ shop and play the baby grand they had in a back room of the gallery.
”Okay, Mom, they’re just jealous. I don’t know why. But, why do they call me a fairy or a faggot? I don’t like boys very much, as it is.”
He had asked what these appellations had meant before and his mother made a decision not to hide what some would call a too adult subject for a ten-year old. She explained it as tactfully as she could, telling him that some people were born that way; that they couldn’t help it. Giving him an abbreviated but accurate accounting of the facts of life, she explained that people developed in different ways.
Some things happened in the womb that scientists were still trying to explain. She emphasized that for most it was not a matter of choice. Some boys were attracted to boys as partners as some girls were attracted to girls. There were even some people who liked either sex; however, the important thing was that name calling had no place in the matter. She talked about the fact that some of their best clients and friends were ‘gay,’ a term he had heard in the past and wondered how someone who was as unhappy one of their friends was could be referred to as ‘gay’.
“Mom, if people are born this way, then what’s the big deal?”
“It’s called prejudice,” she responded. “As long as man has been around, he has found it easier to ostracize and hate those people that he doesn’t understand. Prejudice is a biased feeling for or against something not based on sound knowledge.
“Man is his own worst enemy. There have been more deaths, wars and torture based on prejudice than anything else. Remember your studies about integration and the problems in the south and elsewhere when the government had to step in. All those problems were brought about by prejudice.”
Joey thought about it for a moment before he responded, “What can I do? Billy and Freddy call me names; they pick on me and laugh when I screw up playing ball. Why can’t they just leave me alone?”
By this time Joey was nearly in tears.
“Joey, a great philosopher once said that if a man strikes you, ‘turn the other cheek’. Things won’t always be this bad. Things will get better. They just take time. Meanwhile, just ignore them as best you can. I’ll have a talk with your teachers and we’ll see what can be done.”
Joey continued somewhat stoically; all the time trying to ignore the taunts and jibes from the now three bullies. He didn’t understand it. He didn’t even know the new guy, had never talked to him and yet there he was making his life miserable.
“I wish I’d been born a girl,” he said one day after school as he dropped is books on a chair at the back of the shop and headed for the piano.
His mother was working on framing a print and almost dropped the knife she was using to trim the matting.
“Other than the fact that can’t be, why would you want to be a girl?”
“I don’t know. At least then I wouldn’t have to deal with boys. It just seems that I’m being picked on because I’m a boy.”
“Alright, Joey, what happened this time?”
“Well, I was in the cafeteria and was carrying my tray to the table when that asshole Billy Conklin tripped me. I couldn’t see him do it because the tray was in the way. He told the teacher he didn’t do anything and no one else said they saw anything. Freddy Smith said I tripped over my own feet. Anyway by the time the teacher was through, the cafeteria line was closed and I didn’t get to eat.”
“Joey, watch your language.”
“Mom, he is an asshole and that new guy just sat there and laughed.”
“Alright, Joey, I will talk to the teachers again; however, because no one else saw anything, I don’t imagine anything can be done. Just stay away from them. And, who is this new guy?”
“I think his name is Mike O’Donnell. He just moved here.”
“Oh, yes. They moved into the old Garrett house over on Arnold Avenue. His dad’s running for a city council position. It’s the position that Izzy Pfeifer had before he died. Izzy was such a nice man. It’s a shame he’s gone now.
“Isn’t Open House next week? Maybe your dad and I can meet with Mr. and Mrs. O’Donnell and see if he can help put an end to this?”
“Yes, it’s next Wednesday night. You will be able to see some of my pictures. Miss Jones really liked one of them.”
Joey went to the back room where the baby grand piano was. They called the room “The Parlor”. A removable divider separated it from the main gallery. For special exhibits, his mother would play the piano during the opening party.
Now Joey played it as much or more than his mother did. As he sat on the bench he thought about unhappy he was with the recent events. He remembered some music he’d heard a few days earlier on the public radio station. It was a medley of tunes from a Broadway musical called Les Miserables. He remembered seeing the title among the books in the school library, found it and did a quick read of the abridged edition. He discovered the title meant ‘The Wretched (or Miserable) Ones’ and on this day, that was really how he felt – really unhappy.
The music was in his head and he started to play it. It wasn’t too hard except for that darned unexpected key change, but he was able to fix that without too much of a problem.
When he looked up he saw his mother watching and he stopped playing.
“Don’t stop dear. It sounds so nice. Where did you learn that? Do they have the music at school?”
“No, I heard it on the radio and just thought I’d try to play it. I think I got most of it, though I missed that one key change. It’s not too hard and it’s kinda’ sad, sort of the way I feel.”
“Why don’t you play something happier? I think I heard your dad pull in out back. He’s been working at the Robinson’s house, hanging some of the paintings they bought last week.”
As Joey played he could hear his folks talking and was pretty sure his mother was telling his dad about his comments about wanting to be a girl. He hadn’t told her it wasn’t just the events of that day, or the result of his wanting to escape the torment he had been going through.
He had felt for sometime that something wasn’t quite right. That is, the role he was being placed in just didn’t seem right and now his body seemed to be denying him that role, too. When he looked in the mirror and imagined longer hair and more feminine attire, he didn’t see a young boy, he saw a young girl. It was very confusing and he knew he had to talk to his mother about it.
Unconsciously he had been playing a more upbeat tune. He liked ragtime and “The Entertainer” came automatically to him. He looked up and saw his mom and dad peering in at him and he smiled a bit in return.
A bit later, he heard them closing and getting ready to set the alarm. He put the music back into the bench (he hadn’t used any) and closed the piano and went out the back door with his parents for the short ride home.
Patrick and Mary were watching television when their mom, dad and Joey pulled into the driveway. Patrick attended the nearby junior high school. Although his school day was longer than his brother and sisters, he started school earlier in the day and was able to be at home at the same time as his brother and sister. He was very mature in his conduct and attitude and could be trusted to be the ‘baby sitter’ for the other two. All of the Beebe children would frequently stop by their parents’ shop in the quaint downtown area of their town on their way home from school. Joey stopped there almost every day. That way he could avoid running into Billy and Freddy who frequented a variety store on the way home by the more direct route.
It almost seemed as if Billy and Freddy had a vendetta against him. They’d lie in wait, jumping out to tease, berate and humiliate him as he passed by. Strangely, they never bothered him or his sister if they happened to be together. The tormenting seemed to be more and more intense each time, so going to the shop and riding home with his parents was a much more pleasant alternative. Besides, he could do his homework and practice/play the piano when he was at the shop. The customers were in awe of his talent lingering there just to hear him play long after their transactions were completed.
The Beebes were not rich; however, their business was good and the inheritance of a trust from Andy’s side of the family enabled them to have a very nice ranch style house in a bedroom community in Southern California. Prices were really starting to escalate in their area and if they had to buy a house today, they certainly could not afford the one they were in. They lived close to the San Gabriel Mountains and that put them above some of the smog layers that pervaded the area at times. When it was clear enough they had an excellent view of the front range of mountains that rose to nearly 6,000 feet. A nice thing about the area was that so much was accessible from there. They could go to the beach in about an hour or go to the ski resorts in about the same time. There were even a couple of trout streams close by that they could hike to, fish and never see another person when they were there. Joey loved it back there.
Dinner that night was very pleasant as was more often than not the case. While Andy and Linda fixed dinner they had a glass of white wine. Some nights they might gather in the family room and watch an interesting program on PBS while dining off the TV trays. Tonight; however, they had dinner in the dinning room. Andy put a CD of some Mozart divertimenti on the stereo and they were able to carry on a pleasant conversation over the music. It was a very enjoyable evening.
After dinner, everyone pitched in and cleared the table and then went to their separate tasks. Andy was reading a new issue of Arts and Antiques and Linda was working on an appraisal of some art that a wealthy family ‘up the hill’ had. The appraisals were a good source of supplemental income and they were gaining a reputation for the outstanding work they were doing.
Joey was just finishing his bath when his mother knocked on the door to see how he was. He told his mother to come in, that it was okay. The place was like a steam bath. Joey loved hot baths and showers. He’d washed his hair and was trying to dry it, had a towel wrapped around his waist and was slightly turned away from his mother.
“Hi, Joey, is everything O-ooooh-kay.”
“Are you alright Mom? You look funny.”
“I’m fine, dear. It’s just that you’ve let it get so hot in here it made me feel faint for a moment. Be sure to open the window and let this place dry out and cool down. I wish you wouldn’t take such hot baths and showers. It can’t be good for you.”
Joey looked at his mother and realized she had probably seen the same thing he’d been seeing. It was time to ask some more questions. But his mom changed the subject before he could
“Honey, lights out in 30 minutes. Oh, Patrick solved part of the Adventure game. He said he had to pay the Troll with the nest in order to get the treasure back. Did you help him with that?”
“Yeah, I told him not to put all his eggs into one basket. The trouble was he hadn’t found the eggs yet. When you find them it’s real easy because the magic word is revealed to you. Of course, you may not realize it’s the magic word unless you experiment a bit. It was a neat game Mom. Now I need something more difficult.
“Mom, would you come to my room for a minute. I want to ask you something.”
When they got to his bedroom, Joey started talking as he got into his pajamas, “Mom, about what I said at the shop. You know, about wanting to be a girl. I didn’t mean to upset you, but I’ve kinda’ felt this way for a long time. You told me that every one was different and that there were others that felt differently about themselves. I don’t belong where I am. That is, I’m not sure what I am. My thing is small, I have a big butt and I look like a girl. I’m tired of being called a fairy and a faggot. I never hurt anyone and you told me just because someone is gay it doesn’t mean he is a bad person.”
“Oh my! This is serious. Do you think you are gay?”
“I don’t know. All I know is if I can’t be a boy, I may as well be a girl. The trouble is I’m not a girl either. This whole thing sucks!”
“Would you feel better if we got you an appointment with Dr. Scharff? He’s a good man and you could talk to him about how you feel. I’ll call him in the morning.”
“Okay, Mom. That might be a good idea. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight dear,” she leaned over and gave him a kiss.
Chapter 3: Jo’s Story, Spring 1988, Questions
It was a happy weekend for the Beebes. They had gone into the mountains to an area know as Buckhorn Flats. Only a few small patches of snow were left from the past winter and the creeks were running nicely. Patrick had brought his fishing gear, as he wanted to see if he could tempt a couple of the larger brown trout that were known to inhabit the creek a few miles down the canyon into his creel. He thought he might have a chance as the higher water had a little ‘color’ to it and the trout might not be so wary.
The family hiked several miles down the trail, then continued down the creek after the trail left it for the ridge above. Spring was really setting in at this altitude. The birds were singing for mates or claiming territory. They even saw a beautiful Ruby Throated Hummingbird among the flowers. The Tiger Lilies along with the Columbine were particularly beautiful.
They set up ‘camp’ where a small tributary came in to join the main creek. It was running bright and clear now, but they knew it would be dry before the end of summer.
Patrick took off to one of the nicer pools just below their picnic place and immediately caught two nice rainbow trout that he released. He wanted the bigger and wilier browns. They tended to be cannibalistic and would prey on the smaller fish in the stream as well as the usual menu of insects and insect larvae.
Joey and Mary set about constructing a dam in the smaller creek and eventually a nice wading pool formed behind it. The water was quite cool; however, in the light of the sun the air was warm enough. It was quite cool in the shade, though, especially after they cooled down from their four-mile trek down the canyon.
Linda called everyone back to the picnic cloth for lunch and they sat around eating cold fried chicken and potato salad. They also had some canned fruit and other delicacies. All in all, everything tasted wonderful. The high altitude always seemed to somehow enhance the senses.
After lunch Patrick went back to fishing. There were several larger pools in the next few hundred yards downstream and he was certain one of those big brown trout was lurking there. Andy and Linda lay back relaxing and reading paperbacks each had brought, while, at the same time keeping an eye on the younger children. It was not that they could not be trusted, as they were mountain savvy; however, the warmer spring weather would bring out the snakes and Andy wanted to ensure that one of the well-camouflaged rattlesnakes didn’t appear while the children's attention was elsewhere. Not only that, he was keeping an eye on the weather. The storm wasn’t due in until late the next day, but he noticed a high deck of clouds moving in and the fact the air seemed to be chilling a bit.
Suddenly, they could hear Patrick give a loud whoop followed by, “I got him!”
They heard some more or less loud talking and Andy knew that Patrick had tied into one of those big ol’ browns that inhabited the creek. By then, everyone was looking towards the clump of willows that obscured their view of where Patrick was fishing. Things were quieter for a while and there were no cries of disappointment as if the “big one” had gotten away.
Suddenly Patrick, holding a very large trout, came running around the willows.
“I got him! Look at it. It’s huge!”
And, indeed it was huge. It was 21 ½ inches long and it weighed almost 4 ½ pounds on the “De-Liar” Patrick carried with him. Not many people had any idea this stream held some huge fish and the Beebes were not about to spread the news too far. Andy had Patrick clean it and bury the insides. Everyone knew what was going to be for dinner the next night.
The clouds were starting to thicken and Andy thought it was best that they pack and head out. It was a 1500 foot climb and four miles out and he knew they might be a bit leg weary before they returned to the car.
When they arrived home it was still light. Linda escorted the groggy children into the house and told them to clean up. She would fix a light dinner and they could watch a video on the VCR. They had just purchased a copy of “Back to the Future” with that cute Michael J. Fox. The language was a little strong at times but over all it was very enjoyable, especially for the children. Linda mentioned she’d heard two sequels were in the works and she hoped they were as good.
Mary was nodding off before the movie was half over and Linda had her go to bed. There was no argument on Mary’s part.
Before they went to bed, they decided they’d go to church the next day. Andy and Linda were not believers; however, they felt a number of good things could be learned from a ‘good’ Christian attitude and it would be good for the children. A very nice community church nearby that was very tolerant of different life styles and different ethnic backgrounds. The members did not actively proselytize but genuinely welcomed everyone.
They went to other churches as well. They went to the Jewish Temple on their Sabbath where Joey found that many of the philosophies expressed were very similar to the ones they heard in other churches. Once they went to a service there during Chanukah. Joey first thought that it was the Jewish Christmas, but his dad explained it was a celebration of the Jews’ victory over the Syrians thousands of years ago. After the Hebrews had cleaned the reclaimed temple, they wanted to light the eternal light that is present in every Jewish house of worship. Once lit, the oil lamp is not supposed to be extinguished. They found only a tiny jug of oil with only enough oil for a single day. The oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle occurred as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day but for eight days. He also explained that Chanukah was actually a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish religion and that there were more important holidays, or religious commemorations in the spring and fall. One of these usually happened around Easter. He did not explain that this was probably not a coincidence.
Joey thought that the story about the lamp was very interesting; however, he didn’t think that could have happened and told his dad so.
Andy thought about it for a moment before he responded, “You make a good point, Joey, but we will never know for sure. I think a point to be learned from the story is that if you base your life on sound principles that contribute to mankind, you will persevere over evil philosophies based on unsound principles. It isn’t always easy triumphing over evil. You have to stick together and fight for what is best for mankind. Unfortunately, some beliefs tend to obscure reality and if the beliefs skew the perception of reality enough, evil things can happen.”
Joey found that other churches they went to also expressed some good ideas, but he also found that some of the ideas expressed did not make any sense at all. One of the churches they went to made him feel like a real outsider. They were seated towards the rear.
During part of the service, the pastor called for “all sinners” to come forward, renounce their sins and join the true world of God; for if they didn’t, they would surely burn in hell. Several went forward and there was some sort of strange ceremony. There was a lot of praying and the congregation would shout, “Amen,” “Praise the Lord” and “Halleluiah.”
When the Beebes did not stand and move forward, several members of the congregation stared at them as if they were something less than human.
After the service, one of the members approached them and pointed his finger at Joey’s father and said, “You and your family, Mr. Beebe (he pronounced it Beebee), better get right with God or surely you will spend eternity in Hell. You are sinners and had better make amends before it is too late. God abhors homosexuals and he will surely smite you for bring them into the community.”
“Thank you for your comments, Mr. Scroggins. It’s so nice to hear such sunny commentary on this beautiful Sunday morning.”
“Come on kids. We need to move on. Have a nice day, Mr. Scroggins.”
Thinking about what that Mr. Scroggins had said, Joey suddenly realized this is what his dad had been talking about before. He was seeing the beginning of evil.
But that was a different church and many weeks ago. On this particular morning everyone dressed nicely but casually, ate breakfast, jumped into the station wagon and headed for the church. There was no complaining or coercion. The children were happy to go and see their friends and they sometimes attended an evening youth get together. Joey liked it as well because of the music. A past member had left the church with a sizable endowment and the church used part of it to purchase a large pipe organ. He hoped that someday, when his legs were long enough, he’d get a chance to play it. It would be twenty years before those hopes came into fruition.
Joey looked around during the service and noted Mr. Cassil, the sad gay man from the shop, was sitting near them. He also noted that Mr. Cassil did not appear to be sad and that a handsome man was sitting next to him.
After the service there was a social in the fellowship hall and everyone was invited for cookies and punch. It was just a chance for everyone to get to know each other. The Beebes decided that would be nice and joined them. Joey got a plate of cookies and a cup of fruit punch and turned to look for his family. As he searched he noticed Mr. Cassil and his friend standing a bit apart from everyone else. Joey had some questions on his mind and walked over to the pair.
“Hi, Mr. Cassil.”
“Well, Hi yourself Joey. What brings you over here?”
“Could we talk for a moment? I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. I need to know something. It’s pretty serious.”
“It sounds like it might be. Do you want Roger to step away?
“No, I think it’d be alright. He’s like you, isn’t he?”
Matt Cassil was startled, to say the least. It was no secret that he was gay. He was not flamboyant and was much respected in the community. He just didn’t expect this from a ten-year old boy.
“Joey, maybe we need to sit over here in the corner.”
Matt’s friend had a questioning expression on his face as they sat by a small table.
“Now as to your question, by ‘like you’ I suppose you mean is he gay?”
He turned to Roger who nodded his assent.
“Roger Copeland is a good friend of mine who recently moved here.
“Roger, this precocious lad is Joseph Beebe. His folks own that fine art gallery and frame shop I pointed out to you.
“Okay, Joey, what is your question?”
“Mr. Cassil, when did you know you were gay? Were you my age?”
“I might have been. I think I always knew I was different. I liked girls as friends, but I never wanted to marry one or date one. Why do you want to know this? Aren’t you a bit young for this sort of conversation? Do you think you are gay?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Cassil. Some boys at school are always calling me a fairy or faggot. They called me a pansy once and I think that is sort of the same thing. They are always teasing me because I can’t play baseball or football and throw like a girl.”
“Joey, just because someone is not good at sports does not mean they are gay. There have been a number of very fine athletes, professional football players for instance, who were and are still gay. Some men are very small and petite and who are very masculine and want only relationships with woman. Being gay is something most of us are born with. We didn’t ask for it. This is just the way we are.”
“That’s what my mom said.”
“Well, your mother is a very smart person. What would she say if she knew we were having this conversation?”
“I think she knows. She has looked over here a couple of times. We’ve talked about this before. You see the problem is I think I may be turning into a girl.”
“Do you mean you want to be a girl?”
“No, I’m not sure what I want. I just think I’m turning into a girl.”
“Perhaps, you need to talk to your parents about this. You should see a doctor and he could help you figure things out.”
“My mom and I talked about it the other night and she is making an appointment for me with Dr. Scharff, except he’s on vacation.
“I see my mom’s calling me. I better go. Thank you for talking with me, Mr. Cassil. It was nice to meet you Mr. Copeland. I’m glad Mr. Cassil is happy now.”
“It was nice to talk to you Joey.”
After the social, the Beebes headed for home. A trout was waiting to be cooked.
Joey helped his mother in the kitchen. They had decided to cook the trout over the barbeque and were going to make some sauce for basting it. They wrapped it in foil and cooked it over the coals along with some vegetables. They also had some big, plump artichokes from central California which would not be cooked over the barbecue but would be boiled along with some olive oil and bay leaves. There were enough artichokes so that every one could have two. Joey loved to peel the leaves and dip the ends into a butter sauce before scraping the meat off with his teeth. The best part was getting to the heart, digging out the thistle and eating the sweet, rich meat.
“That was quite a conversation you were having with Mr. Cassil, Joey. By any chance were you talking about what we were talking about last night? If it was, that was very brave of you. Mr. Cassil is a very nice man isn’t he?”
“I was, Mom. I thought that since he was gay, maybe he could tell me about his feelings when he was my age. I just need to know what’s going on. He’s very nice and he told me that just because I wasn’t good at sports didn’t mean I was gay.
“Mom, I may not be gay. It’s just that I’m not sure what I am.”
“Honey, try not to worry about it. We’ll make an appointment with Dr. Scharff as soon as he gets back and we can see what he thinks.”
They were going to have dinner out on the patio: however, the clouds were starting to lower and the wind had picked up. It was getting a bit chilly also. The storm was finally starting to come in. The talk on the weather was that it was going to be around a while.
They moved everything to the dining room and dinner was wonderful. The trout was perfect and a little was left over for the cats that had been sitting by and watching each morsel as it made its way from the plate to the mouth.
It was a very stormy night.
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