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29 June 2011, 9:00 am No Comments

Books: The Chaperone

Submission by Terrence Moss, TNG contributor. Moss is a short fiction writer and media commentator with articles featured on Associated Content and Suite 101. “Starring Erick Davidson” also appears in the arts/books/culture section of The New Gay. More Erick Davidson stories and other works can be found at www.terrencemoss.blogspot.com

Erick Davidson is an early thirtysomething from New Jersey who has lived in Los Angeles for the better part of a decade.

******

Two weeks ago, Erick put together a very well-received sponsorship package for the Fresh Air Fund to be underwritten by the Fresh Fruits Initiative. Since the FFI had been approached to essentially foot the bill for a campaign that Lefty Magazine would still making a commission on, they issued a challenge for them make a sacrificial contribution of their own to the Fresh Air Fund.

It was decided that Erick and Abram, who closed the deal with the FFI, would fly to New York for the week to help drive inner-city kids to the homes of their host families in more rural and suburban areas in the northeast and mid-Atlantic.

“Alright childrens, we have a few ground rules to review,” Erick says to a group of twelve on a passenger van driven by another one of the Fresh Air Fund volunteers.

He sits on a short stool between the front driver and passenger seats and reads from a typed-up sheet of paper. “Keep your seatbelts on at all times while the van is in motion. Since Mister Rich needs to concentrate on driving, please do not talk to or throw anything at him.”

Erick leans back and turns to Rich, who’s making his way down 6th Avenue toward the Holland Tunnel. “I envy you,” Erick says to Rich.

Rich laughs. Erick leans forward and continues. “There will be two stops along the New Jersey Turnpike for bathroom breaks before we begin dropping you off in Delaware and Maryland. Does anyone need to go now? No? Good. We have apples, carrots, bananas, trail mix and water for snacks to tide you over until dinner with your respective host families tonight. If you get hungry, ask me and I will serve it to you. Do NOT get up and serve yourselves. Are there any questions before I add my own rules to this list?”

“What’s your name?” eight-year-old Laurie asks.

“I am Mister Erick.”

“What’s your last name?” Laurie asks.

“It’s Davidson. Now for my rules. There will be no laughing, no smiling, no poking, no touching, no blinking, no coughing, no sneezing, no groaning, no moaning, no huffing, no puffing, no griping, no complaining, no singing, no humming, no sniffling, no yawning, no kicking, no foot-tapping, not hitting, no smacking and no slapping. I reserve the right to add to this list as I see fit during this trip. Are there any questions?”

The younger children stare wide-eyed into Erick’s stern eyes. “What happens if we don’t follow these rules?” a wiseacre twelve-year-old asks.

“What’s your name?” Erick asks.

“Timothy.”

“Well, Timothy – and all of you for that matter — if you don’t follow these rules, Mister Rich will pull this fan over and we will tie you to the roof.”

The younger children look back and forth at each other in wild-eyed concern. Rich briefly glances at them in the rear view mirror, smiles and shakes his head.

“He’s kidding,” Timothy reassures them. He then looks at Erick for confirmation. “You are kidding, right?”

Erick stares at him sternly. He then raises an eyebrow. “There’s only one way to find out, Timothy.”

“He’s kidding,” fourteen-year-old Brian states confidently.

Erick subtly nods at Brian. “Are there any other questions?” he repeats.

“How old are you?” Laurie asks.

“I’m older than you,” Erick replies with the smile.

“Where are you from?” Laurie asks.

“I’m actually from New Jersey, but I live in California.”

“What do you do there?” nine-year-old Sarah asks.

“I help the Fresh Air Fund with its marketing.”

“What are you doing here then?” Timothy asks.

“The company I work for wanted to do more to support the Fund.”

“How much are you getting paid for this?” Timothy charges.

Erick sends him a warning glare and points to the roof. “Four hundred thousand dollars,” he answers.

“Are you married?” Sarah asks.

Erick leans back and looks up at Rich. “I feel like I’m at a press conference.”

“You’re doing fine. Better you than me. This is why I drive,” Rich responds.

Erick makes a face before leaning forward. “I’m not married.”

“Why not?” Laurie asks.

“’Cuz he’s gay! He and Mister Rich are boyfriends!” Timothy blurts out.

Erick sits in silence for a moment. The psychologist in him wants to explore what Timothy knows about homosexuality, what his parents have told him about it and why he would make jokes. However, given the tenuous nature of the topic where kids and parents are concerned, Erick opts for the smart ass approach. He leans back and looks up at Rich again, who’s smiling. Erick holds the rule sheet in front of his face. “What’s Timothy’s last name?” he whispers.

“Vieira,” Rich whispers back.

Erick leans forward again. His face goes solemn as he begins to tell Timothy and the other children about his special friend from high school. The two of them were really close. They walked to class together, ate lunch together, did their homework together, watched TV together, had dinner at each other’s houses and spent the night at each other’s houses.

Then one day, a classmate made a joke about the two of them being boyfriends. Erick’s special friend was so upset that he immediately stopped talking to him. “I was devastated,” Erick recalls.

Erick was so hurt that he stopped talking to people. He walked to class by himself, ate lunch by himself, did homework by himself, watching TV by himself, had dinner with his parents and never spent the night at anyone else’s house.

Erick and his special friend never saw each other again after that. They each found new friends. They went off to different colleges. Erick moved to California, while his friend stayed in New Jersey. The only thing he’s heard about his special friend is that he’s married with a kid.

“That’s so sad,” Sarah says.

“What was his name?” Laurie asks.

“I won’t tell you the first name, but his last name is ‘Vieira’.”

Timothy’s eyes widen.

“Isn’t that your last name? And aren’t your dad and Mister Erick around the same age?” Brian teases knowingly.

“There are a lot of Vieira’s in New Jersey,” Timothy replies defensively.

“That’s true, Timothy. That is very true, but … you never know,” Erick adds. “You do look an awful like my Vieira.”

Erick rises from the stool, sits down in the passenger seat and fastens his safety belt. “That’s so mean,” Rich whispers to him with a smile.

The van heads down Canal Street. “For those of you who have never been through one before, this is the Holland Tunnel. There’s also the Lincoln Tunnel in midtown. Both of them go under the Hudson River. I have no idea how they did that since the Hudson River was probably here first, but it’s still exciting to know that we are technically driving through the water to get to my home state of New Jersey. I still have friends here. I’ll let you know as we approach the state line.”

 


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