Daydream Believer...

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for Davy

Montville, New Jersey....Summer, 1968

Darren sat in the chair in the corner of the dimly lit living room; a rare night of television with the whole family; the whole family being Darren and his parents. His mother was sitting on the couch as usual; her blanket and pillow lay off to the side belying the fact that it was her bed most of the time.

Tony sat in the arm chair across from the couch; the cardboard beer container lay empty on the floor and his head was lolled off to the side. Even still, the odds of him waking up during the program made it impossible for Darren to ‘enjoy’ the program, if by 'enjoy' you mean being reminded of how odd and strange he felt about himself. The figure on the screen was familiar, and yet evoked an almost loathing from the boy; both for the character and for himself as the young man almost pranced around pretending to be a girl.

“What the…what a fag,” his father murmured as he sat up, taking notice of the music. He leaned closer and turned the volume down as the boy slunk further into the chair. His mother looked over at her husband and frowned before taking a sip of her own beer.

“What the hell is this shit on for anyway? I told you I wanted to watch Gunsmoke.” He slurred the words. Helen didn’t bother to answer since he was almost in enough of a stupor to fall back asleep; something he did almost immediately after he finished talking. She was going to suggest they watch The Man from Uncle to Darren, but he had already gotten up to tap his father on the shoulder.

“Come on…let’s get you to bed.” The man growled a bit in his sleep before rousing enough to walk to the bedroom where he collapsed in a heap on the bed.

“Nite, Dad…” Darren said as his father began to snore loudly. He came back to the living room to find his mother working on her second quart of beer. He kissed her on the forehead.

“Nite, Mommy.” She blinked back some tears and grabbed his hand almost blindly.

“Nite, honey. Mommy loves you so much.” He kissed her cheek before walking down the hallway to his bedroom. He closed the door behind him and slid a bolt across the jamb to lock himself in. He stripped quickly and tossed his clothes in the basket in the corner before looking in the mirror.

At seventeen he looked more like a boy just entering high school rather than one on the verge of college. His pale skin was almost at odds with his Sicilian name; something else to thank his Scots-Irish mom for. The rest of his form was more to be blamed on a treacherous or benevolent deity, depending upon how he felt about himself at any particular moment. Tonight he was torn; almost cursing and thanking God at the same time as he reached into his closet and pulled out a Fordham gym bag with a zipper secured by a small combination lock.

Cheer up, sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean
To a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?

A few moments later the boy had been replaced by a fairly ordinary looking girl. She wore a lime green and yellow striped polyester mini-dress. She stood a bit taller on strappy green sandals with two inch block heels, and her legs shone from a brand new pair of sheer pantyhose. She looked in the mirror. Her dark brown hair brushed against the big shirt-type white collar of the dress and she felt oddly comforted by the tickle of the curls that brushed the back of her neck.

The sound of the television was muffled enough by the door, which also served to keep the girl’s sleeping parents from interrupting the music that hissed and popped from the cheap record player on her desk.

Only one thing left to do; almost a weekly ritual which became more frequent as her resolve to be herself grew. She pulled the cardboard backed poster from her closet and pulled off the big decoy picture of Joe Namath to reveal her prize possession. She propped the poster on top of her desk against the wall and retreated to her bed where she lay down on top of the covers and leaned her head against the pillows propped against the headboard.

Oh I could hide 'neath the wings of the bluebird as she sings
The six o'clock alarm would never ring
But it rings and I rise, wipe the sleep out of my eyes
My shaving razor's cold and it stings

A few minutes later the boy turned his head to the side and coughed, hoping to cover the out-of-breath sounds as he came. The handsome boy singer in the poster seemed to gaze in amazement and disgust; his eyes almost following the boy as he got up and went to the bathroom. He stripped off the clothing that had comforted and betrayed him both and shoved the garments rudely back into the gym bag. Stepping into the shower he turned the handle, not bothering to wait for the hot water to kick in. A few moments later he turned the water off and grabbed a towel off the rack. As he grabbed it, he was tempted to wrap it around his torso, but instead scrubbed the water off his body quickly before stepping out of the shower.

The large picture of Broadway Joe was attached onto the poster once again with paper clips and placed carefully back in the closet. He hadn’t even bothered to get dressed; his robe was probably in the laundry already, and the cold air from his drafty bedroom finally pushed him urgently to his dresser, where he grabbed some clean whites and a faded blue tee. He pulled the clothing on quickly before turning off the light and hopping into bed.

You have a way of making everything you say seem unreal
Are you aware that the people who care are mostly stainless steel?

The last song on the album ended and the needle skipped until he got back out of bed and turned off the record player. The lyrics seemed to condemn the boy; at least that’s what he thought. He frowned and picked up the album, almost tempted to scale it across the room, but it cost too much to waste and he couldn’t afford to explain the loud noise to his drunken parents. He handled it gingerly instead, replacing it in the paper sleeve before sliding it into the cover. He walked back and climbed into bed.

Closing his eyes, he was flooded with odd and wondrous and sad and angry emotions as the scene he had imagined only minutes before played out like a movie in his head.

You once thought of me as a white knight on a steed
Now you know how happy I can be
Oh, and our good time starts and ends
With a dollar one to spend
But how much baby do we really need?

“You’re pretty, Darien,” the handsome young man said to her as he placed his hand on her thigh.

“Oh, Davey…that’s such a sweet thing to say.” She kissed him lightly on the cheek and he returned the favor by kissing her full on the lips as he pushed her gently back on the bed. She had never felt this kind of love in her life and here and now she was being loved by her favorite singer. He was gentle and kind and made her feel more alive than at any time in her life....

The ‘movie’ seemed to change; turning on a dime as they say. The scene distorted; almost like watching acetate melt in a dream turned nightmare. The young man still smiled and kissed and touched gently, but instead of a girl feeling love and life, the boy lay on his bed feeling nothing but shame and sadness. The scene dissipated like a vapor as the real world intruded with his uncomfortable mattress and even more uncomfortable confusion about whom and what he was. He raised his head a bit and looked toward his open closet door, spotting the gym bag lying on the floor. As he gazed at the bag, it was almost as if he could see the clothes once again, but now feeling detached from them as if they belonged to someone else.

And they did.

* * * * *

The tall girl stood behind woman seated under the awning as the rain cascaded behind them. She wore a plain black sleeveless shift covered by a thin black raincoat. Her heels were flat; owing more to the weather than convention. The hat she wore was a black silk pillbox that her aunt had loaned her; the only other one in the family who actually cared about her. The lace veil only partially covered her face and did nothing to hide her look of relief; a look mirrored in no small way by the woman sitting in the chair in front of her. She leaned closer and kissed the woman on the cheek. The woman lifted her head slightly and brushed the girl’s veil aside to return the favor, saying finally,

“Thank you, Darien, honey. Mommy loves you very much.”

Cheer up, sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean
To a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?

Daydream Believer
words and music by
John C. Stewart
as performed by
The Monkees

Writing Wrongs
Words and Music by Mike Nesmith
as performed by
The Monkees

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This story is 1642 words long.