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The Talon House

What's The Difference Between Me and You?

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What's the Difference Between Me and You?


Chapter 06 - By Nick

"Gimme your pole, buddy," Jim said as he walked along the shore with Nick right behind him. "I'll cast it for you."

Nick sighed and started to hand Jim his brand new pole, then he decided that it couldn't hurt to ask. "Dad," he started. "Is it ok if I do it? I wanted to be the first one to cast it."

Jim looked down and smiled. "Go ahead, buddy."

Nick walked out toward the edge of the bank and looked out onto the water. The sun was just starting to rise, and there was still a large dark shadow across the water. Nick made sure that there were no branches overhead, then he pulled the pole back over his right shoulder and cast it with all of his might.

"Nice cast, son," Jim said, putting his hand on Nick's shoulder. Nick reeled in his slack and waited. Jim set out two lawn chairs and after he got his pole in the water they both relaxed and waited quietly for a bite. While they waited, Nick's mind was going back and forth to the conversation he had with his dad the other night about whether he was gay or not. He looked over at his dad and he felt worried that he wouldn't have a chance to be a dad and have a son. He also wondered if it would make his dad ashamed of him if he did turn out to be gay. Maybe his dad would still love him, but would he be disappointed or mad at him? Not knowing was hard.

"What are you thinking about, son?" he heard out of the blue. He turned his head and saw Jim watching him, and he just shrugged his shoulders and looked away.

"You don't feel like talking about it?" Jim asked.

"It's not that, dad," Nick answered. "It's just that it's hard to talk about."

"Well, when your ready to talk," Jim said. "We can talk about whatever you want. There isn't anything we can't talk about if it's about you, son."

Nick smiled and turned his attention to his pole, which had started to jerk. Jim jumped out of his chair and ran over to Nick, who had just stood up and was waiting patiently for the next tug. When he felt it, he gave his pole a strong tug and hooked the fish. He started reeling and in less than a minute, a large catfish was flopping around on the end of his line. Jim grabbed the net and got underneath the fish, which was still flopping around and fighting.

"My god, Nick," Jim said excitedly. "What a first catch!"

Nick grabbed the pliers out of his new tackle box and used it to take the hook out of the mouth of the fish. Jim strung a rope through its gills and drove a long metal steak into the ground, securing the rope and Nick's first fish on his brand new pole.

"Can I bait it this time, dad," Nick asked, still excited about his catch.

"Go ahead, son," Jim said as he sat back down in his lawn chair. "I'm so proud of you. You're becoming a hell of a fisherman, you know that?"

Nick grinned as he cut a piece of liver and put it on his hook, careful to make sure that the hook ran through it at least twice. Once again, he walked out to the spot where he made his last cast, pulled the pole back, and let it fly. The cast actually went out a little further than the time before and Nick looked over to his dad who looked impressed as Nick proudly held his pole.

"Are you hungry, bud?" Jim asked as he dug through a bag of food by his feet. "I brought donuts, or you can have an apple."

"Apple please," Nick said, and Jim reached into the bag and took out an apple, then tossed it to Nick. As the two of them ate in silence, Nicks mind began to wander again. This time he was thinking about Derek. He wondered if he would see him this weekend or if Jim had something planned for Saturday, which was often the case.

"Are we doing anything this weekend, dad?" Nick finally asked.

"I don't know yet," Jim answered. "Why?"

"I was just wondering if we were going to be home," Nick said. "I was wondering if Derek was going to be here this weekend."

"Oh, I see," Jim said. "You really like hanging out with him, huh?" Nick smiled and nodded, then he looked down at the dirt as he carved out a circle with his shoe.

"Well, I'll let you know if I have anything planned, ok?," Jim said.

"Thanks, dad," Nick said smiling. He couldn't help but smile at this point, because all he could think about was seeing Derek's face again.

"So you really like him, huh," Jim asked, looking a little closer at his son and smiling a little.

Nick shrugged and said, "Sorta. He's just really cool, and he does all kinds of tricks on his skateboard. I wanted to ride my skateboard with him at the school."

"Is that all?" Jim asked.

Nick looked up and smiled at his dad, then he looked down at the ground shyly. Jim straightened up in his chair and looked back over at his son. "You know," Jim said. "It's ok to want to spend time with your friend."

"Dad," Nick started. "Do you think Derek has a cute face?"

"Well, son, I only saw him as he was going by in a truck," Jim answered. "So I really couldn't say. I'm sure he's a cute kid, though. What do you think?"

"I think he's cute," Nick said.

"Is that what was on your mind earlier, son?" Jim asked.

"Well, not really," Nick said.

"Are you ready to talk about it now?" Jim asked.

Nick looked down at his feet and thought about it and then he looked up at his dad. "Ok."

Jim reeled in his line and set his pole down, then moved his chair closer to Nick's, so that they were sitting side by side. He reached out and Nick handed him his pole, and Jim reeled it in as well.

"You want to start, son?" he asked. Nick was starting to feel really uncomfortable, but as Jim grabbed his hand and held it, he relaxed.

"Did you mean what you said the other night?" Nick asked.

"About what, son?" Jim replied.

"You know, about if I was gay," Nick said. "You would still love me?"

"Of course I would, buddy," Jim said. "I love you more than anything or anyone in the whole wide world. You know that."

"Would you be ashamed of me?" Nick asked, looking down.

"No way, son," Jim answered. "You make me proud everyday. There has never been a day in your life that you haven't made me proud." Jim squeezed Nick's hand, and gave him a smile. "If you told me one day that you were gay, I would love you just as much as I love you now."

"Dad, do you think I'm gay?" Nick asked, looking up at his dad's face for an answer.

"I think you're a really sweet boy who loves a lot of people," Jim said. "You know what else I think, son?"

"What?" Nick asked.

"I think that one day you'll know for sure if you're gay or straight," Jim said. "But until then, you shouldn't worry about it."

"But what if I am, dad?" Nick asked, feeling emotional.

"Then you are, babe," Jim said. "There's nothing to worry about, though. Just be who you are."

"Will it make you mad at me?" Nick asked.

Jim shook his head and answered, "No, son. I wouldn't get mad at you for that. Do you understand why some people are gay, Nick?"

Nick shook his head no, so Jim continued. "Well, people are born gay, son. It isn't something you just decide to be."

"So they can't help it?" Nick asked.

"No, son," Jim said. "It's like you being born with green eyes. You can't make your eyes blue, can you?"

"No," Nick answered.

"Can you make your hair blonde?" Jim asked.

Nick giggled and said, "That's silly. Only if you bleach it."

"But would it be your real color if you put bleach in it?" Jim asked.

"No sir," Nick answered.

"Do you see what I'm talking about now?" Jim asked. Nick smiled and nodded and Jim asked him, "Do you have anymore questions, son?"

"When are we going to move to Virginia?" Nick asked.

"Well, I wanted to talk to you about that, son," Jim said. "I'm going to have to fly back out there to get things ready for us, so papu is going to be staying with you while I'm gone. Is that ok with you?"

"How long are you going to be gone, dad?" Nick asked, a little nervous that his dad would be so far away from him.

"Just a week, son," Jim answered. "I promise to hurry back. You'll be ok with papu, won't you?"

"Yes sir," Nick said quietly.

"Hey, buddy," Jim said, still gripping Nick's hand. "You don't have to be scared. You've stayed the night with papu before."

"I know," Nick said as he started to cry. Nick didn't like to be separated from his dad, and even when he spent the night at his papu's house, he panicked and wished that he could go home. Eventually Nick would calm down and start to enjoy himself, but it always took time.

"Do I have to go to papu's house?" Nick asked.

"No you don't, babe," Jim said. "You'll be home so you can go to school."

"Can I sleep in your room, dad?" Nick asked.

"Yes," Jim said, smiling at Nick. "Papu can sleep in the TV room."

The TV room was a room that Jim set up on the other side of the house when Nick was younger, and it was a place for Nick to watch his movies or read or play quietly. Whenever his papu would stay over, which was actually rather common, especially if he was fighting with his wife, he would sleep in the bed that was in the TV room. Unless there was something that Nick wanted to watch on TV while Jim had the living room occupied, the TV room was almost never used unless his papu was spending the night.

Eventually, they cast their poles again, and after a few more hours of fishing they packed up and walked back to the car. "Can I shift, dad," Nick asked as they drove home. Nick loved to work the gearshift in his dad's car, and Jim would let him shift the gears whenever he asked.

"Ok, son," Jim said as they drove off. Jim pushed in the clutch and Nick put the car in second gear and as they drove, third, fourth and fifth gear. Sometimes Jim would let Nick sit in his lap and steer, but they were driving through town, and Nick knew that there was no way he was going to get to steer the car today, so he settled for shifting it instead. After a while, Nick let Jim take over and as they drove down the road, Nick looked out the window at the city that they lived in. He wondered what would make his dad want to leave that town. It was the city his dad was born in, and the house they lived in was the house that his dad grew up in.

"Dad?" Nick said as he looked out the window.

"Yes?" Jim replied.

"Why don't you want to live in Modesto anymore?" Nick asked.

Jim sighed and looked straight ahead. "It isn't that I don't want to live in Modesto anymore, son," he said. "I just think that I can give you a better life in Virginia. I want us both to have more."

As they pulled into the driveway, Jim told Nick, "You're going to help me unload the stuff, then meet me in the backyard so we can clean these fish." Nick helped his dad unload the trunk, then he put his pole in the closet that they kept all of their fishing poles in, and he went out back to clean their fish. Nick watched as his dad sliced the stomachs of some of the fish, gutted them and then used a tool to scale them. Finally, they were finished with every fish but the first fish that Nick caught with his new pole. Nicks eyes got big as Jim handed him the gutting knife and said, "It's all yours, buddy."

"Really," Nick asked. Jim nodded as he extended the knife again. Nick took the knife in his right hand, then he picked the fish up by his mouth and held him in place. He stuck the knife in the spot that Jim showed him, and he pulled it straight down, opening the fish up. He then proceeded to remove the guts with his hands, and finally he grabbed the scaling tool and scaled his fish. When he was finished, he rinsed the meat off with the water hose and Jim placed it in a plastic baggie, which he handed to Nick, who followed his dad inside and to the kitchen, where they put the fish in the refrigerator.

"Are we going to cook them for dinner," Nick asked.

"Dinner?" Jim exclaimed loudly. "We're going to start the deep fryer in a few minutes and cook them now."

Nick followed his dad to the bathroom and they jumped in the shower together. Jim made sure that Nick washed good, making Nick remember why he didn't like to shower with his dad anymore. Even though he still did it, he hated Jim's long showers. After they were done, Nick and Jim got dressed and Jim took the deep fryer out onto the patio. Nick climbed up onto the counter and got the flour out of the cupboard and Jim dipped the fish in it, then dropped it in the deep fryer.

After lunch, Nick sat in the living room while Jim sat in the backyard and smoked a joint. Nick knew that was what Jim was doing, so he just stayed inside. He didn't want Jim to yell at him for catching him getting high. Eventually, Jim joined Nick in the living room and he put a DVD in for them to watch. Nick got up and moved closer to his dad, whose clothes smelled like fried fish and weed. Nick gave his dad a sniff, and Jim looked down at him.

"Do I stink or something," he asked as Nick sniffed him. Nick looked up and giggled.

"No, I was just smelling the smoke on your shirt," Nick said, then he realized what he said.

"What smoke do you smell, son," Jim asked.

Nick was suddenly feeling ashamed that he said anything, and he looked up at Jim and said ,"Dad, I'm sorry."

Jim just sat back in the couch and looked at Nick, who was starting to get nervous. Jim's weed smoking was one subject that just wasn't discussed, and he brought it up. Even though it was accidental, he was sure that he was busted.

"I wasn't watching dad," he said. "I stayed inside. I promise."

Jim extended his index finger and used it to motion Nick closer to him. Nick followed his father's instructions, and Jim finally spoke.

"Son, I don't want you to think that you have to be sorry," Jim said. "What I do in the backyard is dad's business, and it's something I do in private. But you don't have to be sorry if you know about it, ok?"

"Ok," Nick said.

Jim started the DVD player with the remote, and soon Billy Madison was on, and Jim and Nick sat and laughed as they watched. Since they woke up so early, Nick started to yawn, and soon he was nodding off. He felt his dad scoop him up and take him to the bathroom, standing him in front of the toilet. When he was done, Jim took Nick to his room and put him in his bed. Nick opened his eyes and said, "Do I have to go to bed early?"

"No, I just want you to take a little nap in your bed. I'll come wake you up in a little bit, ok?"

"Ok," Nick said. Jim handed him his Winnie the pooh bear, and kissed him on the cheek and soon, Nick fell asleep.

On Saturday, Nick was up early and he wandered out of his room to the living room to watch cartoons. After a while, Jim was up and cooking breakfast for the two of them. They sat at the table and ate, and after breakfast, Jim told Nick to get in the shower.

"Are we going somewhere today, dad?" Nick asked, hoping his dad would say no.

Jim shook his head and said, "I just want you to take a shower son."

"Can I go see if Derek is at his dad's?" Nick asked.

Jim smiled and said, "After you get ready. Do you want to take a bath this morning? I really think you need to soak in the tub, son."

"Do I have to?" Nick asked. Nick didn't mind soaking in the tub, but he knew how long it would take and he was anxious to get outside so he could ride his skateboard over to Derek's house.

"Yeah, I really think you should, son," Jim said in a voice that said that his decision was final. Jim would let Nick get away with his quick showers during the week, but on the weekend, he usually made Nick soak in the tub. Nick would sit in the tub while Jim would scrub him from top to bottom, then he would freeze while Jim emptied the tub and made him rinse under the showerhead, then the tub would be filled again and Nick had to soak a while longer. Nick never understood why he had to soak for the second time, but it was what Jim said he had to do, and he wasn't going to argue.

"Can I have bubbles?" Nick said as he sat on the toilet while his dad started the bathwater.

Jim walked out to the hallway and got the bottle of bubble bath that he would pour in the tub for Nick. Nick watched as the tub filled up with bubbles and water and after Jim turned off the water, Jim said, "You better hurry up son. The water's going to get cold." Nick finally got in the tub and sat down, and soon he felt a rush of warm water run over his head as Jim poured water on his hair. Then Jim put shampoo in his hand and washed Nick's hair. Finally, he made Nick stand up and he scrubbed him from his face to his feet. When he was done, Nick sat back down and lay under the water, and all of the soap came off his body. Jim drained the tub and Nick stood up again, and as he did, his dad turned on the shower and rinsed him off. Finally, he filled the tub again, and Nick sat and soaked while Jim went into the backyard. He could hear his dad coughing and he could smell the pot smoke through the open window, and he wondered how long his dad would be. Finally, the coughing stopped, but Jim didn't come back inside to tell Nick that he could get out. Nick dunked his head under the water a few times, then he grabbed an old toy that was still sitting near the faucet and played for a while. Pretty soon, the water was getting cold and Nick had to go to the bathroom.

"Dad," he called out. "Can I get out?"

"Just a second, son," he heard his dad say. Nick knew that just a second could mean anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour if his dad was in the backyard.

"Dad, I'm cold and I have to pee," he said through the window.

"Fine, I'm coming," he heard Jim say. Jim came into the bathroom with a large towel and as Nick stepped out into it, Jim dried him off. Nick went to the bathroom and walked out to the living room where Jim was waiting with the towel and some clothes. He wrapped the towel around Nick and dried him off better, then he helped him get dressed. Finally, Nick sat in his dads lap while Jim brushed his hair and put his socks and shoes on for him. Nick looked at the clock on the cable box, and it said 9:30. He wondered if it was to early to knock at Derek's door.

"Dad, I'm going to go to Derek's now, ok?" Nick said.

Jim smiled at him and said, "Ok, buddy. You be good and wear your helmet if you're riding your skateboard."

"Yes sir," Nick said as he kissed his dad and jumped off his lap. "I love you," he yelled as he ran out the door.

Nick rode out to the street on his skateboard and started toward Derek's. He walked up the driveway carrying his board and knocked on the front door. An older man answered the door.

"Is Derek here?" Nick asked.

The man smiled and said, "He's still sleeping. Can you come back a little later?"

"Yes sir," Nick said, then he rode his board back to his house. When he walked inside, he thought he heard his dad raising his voice on the phone. He wasn't sure what the problem was, but he knew his dad was irritated about something. He walked to the kitchen and there he saw his dad pounding his fists on the counter while he talked.

He quickly went back toward the living room, but not before he heard his dad say, "Whatever, dad, that's f***** up!"

Nick knew that his dad was talking to his papu, and he didn't like the tone his dad was using. He had never heard his dad cuss at his papu before, and it made him nervous now that he was hearing it. Then he heard what sounded like a bear roaring and he heard a loud smash. Not wanting to be there at the moment, Nick slipped out the front door and snuck around the side of the house. When he looked through the kitchen window, he saw his dad picking up pieces of a broken bowl off the floor, and he had a furious look on his face.

* * *

Nick sat quietly on the couch as Jim carried his suitcase out the front door and to the car. As unhappy as he was that his dad would be gone for almost a full week, he was at least happy that he got to go to the airport with his papu to see his dad off.

"Are you ready, son?" Jim asked as he made his way back inside. Nick looked up at his father from the couch and nodded sadly and then he looked down to the floor. He really wanted to go, but he understood that he had to go to school and that the subject wasn't open for discussion.

"Hey," Jim said as he took a seat next to Nick on the couch and put his arm around him. "What's wrong, buddy? Are you gonna miss me that much?"

"Yes," Nick said pouting. "I don't want you to go, dad."

"I'll be back on Friday," Jim reminded him. "You and papu are going to come pick me up at the airport." Nick sat on the couch and sulked as he thought about a week away from his dad. He had never spent that much time without him, and he was scared, even if he was going to be home with his papu the whole time.

"You know something," Jim said. "I don't want to go away either, but I'll be back. I'm going to miss you too, son. We'll both be ok, though." Jim reached for Nick's hand and pulled him up off the couch, and together they walked outside to the car.

As they drove toward the foothill region of California where big Nick had an office, Jim let Nick pick out CDs and soon, Nick put his dad's trip to the back of his mind. As Jim pulled up to his father's office, the expression on his face seemed to change from relaxed to angry as he set eyes on his brother Alex. As Jim opened his door to get out, Alex started to say something, but Jim quickly cut him off.

"Shut up!" Jim shouted before Alex could even get one word out. "Just shut your damn mouth! Don't even say a f****** word!" Jim was walking toward his brother the whole time he was shouting him down and Nick wasn't sure if he should follow his dad inside or not. Finally, Jim spun around and snapped his fingers at Nick, who quickly ran to his dad's side and followed him inside the building. Nick noticed that his uncle chose to stay out front rather than follow them inside. Nick didn't know what was wrong, but he was sure it was something serious. Nick never did find out what happened the weekend before when Jim had an explosion in the kitchen while he was on the phone with his dad, but Nick had a feeling that what he just witnessed had something to do with it.

"Jim," big Nick said as they walked in the office. "What's wrong with you son?"

"Dad!" Jim snapped. "Let's not talk about it right now. I don't want to be late."

With that, the three of them were out the door, on the way to Sacramento where Jim would catch his flight. On the way to the airport, Jim sat in the back seat with Nick. They went through CDs and talked about different things as Nick's papu drove in the front seat. Jim didn't seem to have much to say to his father the whole time that they were in the car, and Nick realized that they might not have been speaking for some reason.

When they got to the airport, big Nick parked the car and the three of them walked to the gate that Jim would be flying out of. Jim started out carrying his suitcase but for some reason his dad grabbed it from him and walked ahead, so Jim reached down and lifted Nick onto his shoulders as they walked through the parking lot toward the baggage check in area. There was still plenty of time before Jim had to board, so the three of them found an A&W in the food court and sat down to eat. While they were eating, Nick noticed that his dad and his papu were talking, so he left them alone. He didn't really pay attention to what they were saying, and eventually, a magazine store grabbed his attention.

"Can I go in there, dad?" Nick asked.

Jim dug ten dollars out of his pocket and handed it to his son, then he said, "Go ahead, buddy." Nick went inside and he found a fishing magazine that he caught his interest, so he picked it up and started to read it. After he decided that this was what he wanted, he took it to the register and paid for it, then turned to head back to the food court. When he walked out of the store, he saw his dad and his papu in a long hug, and he knew that they made up with each other.

Nick slowly approached them and took the scene in. It was something he almost never saw, and it made him feel good to watch it. When Jim and his father parted, they both noticed Nick standing there, and Jim held his arm out for Nick to come closer. When he did, Jim reached down and lifted him off his feet with a hug, and talked in his ear.

"I love you, babe," Jim said as they hugged. "You be good for papu."

"I love you too, dad," Nick said. "I promise to be good."

"Ok, son," Jim said. "I'll call you everyday, alright."

"Yes sir," Nick said starting to cry. He knew that it was only a matter of time until Jim had to board his flight. He held on to Jim's neck as hard as he could and eventually he said, "Don't go, dad. I'm scared."

"Sweetheart, don't be scared," Jim said. "You're going to be home with papu, and I'm going to call everyday. We can talk as long as you want to, son."

"Will you call me every morning," Nick asked.

"I promise to, son," Jim said as he smiled at his son.

Nick held on to Jim's neck as they made their way to the gate and finally the time came when Jim had to board, so Nick gave him one last kiss, then he let his dad put him down and watched sadly as his dad got on the plane. Nick and his papu watched together out the window as the plane moved away from the gate and pulled around to the runway. From the large window, they could see Jim's plane take off and Nick felt sick to his stomach as he watched it disappear in the clouds.

"I don't feel very good, papu," Nick said as they walked away from the gate. "I think I need to throw up." Just as he was saying that, everything he ate at A&W came up and went all over the floor in front of him. As he was throwing up, people got out of the way fast, avoiding the mess that he was making on the airport floor. Nick started crying, more from the embarrassment of throwing up than from the sadness he felt about Jim being gone for five days, and his papu quickly walked him to the nearest bathroom to help him get cleaned up.

"Rinse your mouth out with water, polakia," the elder Nick said as he comforted his grandson. "It's going to be ok." After they finished in the bathroom, they left the airport and headed home. Nick fell asleep in the front seat as his papu drove, but he woke up as they pulled into the driveway. They got out and Nick went straight into his room and lay down on his bed to cry. He heard his papu walk in shortly after, and he felt him sit on the bed.

"Nick, I know you miss dad," he heard his papu say. "But you know what?"

"What?" Nick cried as his papu rubbed his back.

"Five days is no time at all," he said. "It's going to fly by, and you aren't even going to remember why you were so sad."

Nick felt his papu lay down next to him on the bed, so he moved over to give him room.

"Why are me and my dad moving, papu?" Nick asked as he cried.

"It's hard for me too, polakia," his papu answered. "But I can't question him. I can only hope that you guys will be happy when you finally move."

"Why can't you come with us?" Nick asked.

"I wish I could," the elder Nick said. "But I have Uncle Alex and Uncle Brandon and your Yia Yia here, and they don't want to move."

"Papu," Nick started. "Why did you and oma get divorced?"

"We were just too young," the elder Nick replied. "We were kids when we started our family, and it just didn't work."

"Why does oma hate me," Nick asked looking closer at his papu for an answer.

"She doesn't," he answered. "Your oma just says mean things when she gets upset. That doesn't mean she doesn't love you."

"I'm sorry I threw up, papu," Nick said.

"Don't be sorry, Nick," he said. "How do you feel right now?"

"Sad," Nick answered.

"Do you think you're ready for bed?" his papu asked. Nick knew that it was past his bedtime already, so he just nodded.

"Dad usually helps me," Nick said. "I need to take a shower and get my pajamas."

Nick got out of the bed and started for the bathroom door. After he took his shower he got out and dried off and then he went into his bedroom looking for his pajamas.

When he finally got them on, he went into the living room and kissed his papu goodnight.

"Are you going to tuck me in?" Nick asked.

"Of course," his papu answered as Nick pulled him up by the hand and led him to his dad's room.

"Dad said I could sleep in his bed while he's gone," Nick said, making sure his papu knew in advance where he would be sleeping. After his papu tucked him in, Nick laid in the bed thinking about his dad and wondering what he would do in the morning when he had to get ready without him. As he lay in bed and worried, his eyes got heavy and soon he was asleep.

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