Another excerpt from Face Your Fears, my novel arriving in July!
Jude Totsian is 24. It’s 2002. He is living in Iowa City, Iowa with his boyfriend, David, after serving 4 years in the Air force. He’s attending University of Iowa for his doctorate in Physical Therapy.
I glance at the clock; ten-thirty a.m. I’m starving. I look down to check Jack’s determined effort to swim one length of the YMCA pool without stopping while using his rhythmic breathing skills we’d been practicing. He labors onward, his kicks are everywhere except straight behind him, his arms flopping out of synch at times, his face scrunched in concentration to take a breath as his arm raises, and to tuck his face back into the water and exhale as his arm enters the water.
Jack is seven, scrawny, tall, and not too coordinated. His hair is reddish-brown and goes in all directions whether wet or dry, he has huge buck teeth, green/brown eyes and a zillion freckles. He is also one of the most fun and alive kids I’ve ever worked with. The kid reminds me of someone and after months of seeing him twice a week, I still can’t place who it is.
One time, he yelled, “Hey, Jude, how many cowlicks you think I got?”
I laughed and shrugged. “Don’t have time to count them. There’s more kids coming in for lessons.”
“Sixteen! Ain’t that cool.” He shook his head like a wet dog shakes his body.
I doubted sixteen, though the way his hair looked, it was way more than one. Today, I look down at him again. Four more kids are waiting their turn at the end of the pool. “C’mon, Jack,” I yell. “There’s a million dollars waiting for you.”
He struggles on. He loves the water and is like a fish, except when it comes to putting the strokes together in the correct manner. I told his mother his coordination hasn’t caught up with his growth yet. She agreed. I watch as one side of his goggles loosens. He shakes his head and keeps going with one eye open, one closed.
Jack finishes and I give him my million dollar high-five. He cheers on the other kids, as excited for them as he was for himself. They leave for the locker rooms at ten-forty-five and I have a fifteen-minute break between classes. Someone hollers my name and I look up to see David walking in from the locker room, carrying a brown lunch bag and bottle of water.
“It’s turkey with pesto and chips,” he says, grinning at me the way he does when he wants to hug me in public, but isn’t sure he should. Not everyone is good with seeing two males hug like they’re more than just friends.
“Whoa. What a chef. Where’s the whole-wheat with organic honey?”
He shakes his fist at me, laughing. We’ve never forgot his honey sandwiches he brought on our first date. Nor the fact he was so proud he made them with organic honey.
“I picked these up at the deli, smart ass.” He grins and rubs my wet hair.
He sits down by me on the wet floor and watches as I scarf down the food. They are good, and I realize he made them himself with deli bread, meat, and a jar of pesto sauce bought from the supermarket.
“I’m headed to an auction east of town, they’ve got a dining table and chairs, plus who knows what else will jump in my truck, dying to be refinished by some dude named Jude.” He loves to call me Jude the dude, or dude Jude.
I grin, nod and keep chewing. This is our life and we love it. I mustered out of the Air Force five months before David, just in time to begin fall semester at the University of Iowa. That summer, we visited the city and bought a two-flat. I moved into the upper unit. The bottom was still rented out. When David arrived that January, we immediately began rehabbing the upper unit while living in it. Later, we did the lower unit and rented it to an associate professor. Looking back, the Air Force seems like a vacation.
I have tough classes. Physical Therapy is not for weak-minded people. I do one to two twelve-hour night shifts per week for a private ambulance department. I volunteer five hours a week, teaching swimming and do most of the refinishing on the furniture we acquire from auctions and flea-markets, plus painting the apartments when tenants move out of the six-unit apartment house we also bought. Oh, yes, I study a lot. A hell of a lot. Some days, I’m not sure if I’m coming or going, but David keeps me centered, like he did by bringing me lunch. We are both very organized which helps us accomplish as much as we do.
David stands up, gives me a light hug and walks away, oblivious of his wet butt. He waves at the kids coming in. Before he goes through the door, it hits me. “Wait,” I yell. “I just remembered. Wait.”
He walks back, shaking his head, laughing, but with a look that says, what the hell is this about?
I hustle up to him, all excited. “Jack reminds me of this kid. Oh, crap. His name was on the tip of my tongue and I lost it again. I’ve been trying to remember who Jack reminds me of and I just remembered. Or thought I did.”
Several other staff watch us. David towers above me in his wet-assed jean cut offs, strings hanging, his flannel shirt and flip-flops with white tube socks—his usual winter wear. He looks down at me like I’ve gone off my rocker.
“You know. Jack. The little kid I keep telling you about, the freckle-faced kid.”
David nods slowly. “Um, Jude, you tell me about all the little kiddies you teach, but, okay. Jack, yes, you’ve mentioned Jack. Now what about him?” He turns and rolls his eyes at the staff.
“I finally remembered who he reminds me of. It was a boy at the camp for disabled kids I helped at one day last summer. You know. The one that kicked his urinal.”
David exaggerates his nodding. “Oh, yes, Jude. That kid. And his name is? Is Wait? I’m so glad you got this figured out.” Turning to the laughing staff, he makes circles near his ear and asks, “Can you guys squeeze this man’s head a bit? I think it’s getting water-logged.”
He starts doing a shuffle and moving his hands to the right, then to the left. “Jack!” He shuffles to the right. “Wait!” He shuffles to the left. “Jack. Wait. Jack. Wait.” Then he starts singing, “Do you know Jack? Do you know Wait?” still shuffling right and left, looking like a linebacker trying to be a cheerleader. Everyone, including the kids, is bent over, laughing at him. Thank God, the kids aren’t in the pool and are sitting on their assigned benches.
He stops, looks around, drops his meaty arm around my shoulders, gives me a squeeze and steps away. Looking over his shoulder, he calls, “Oh, ya, I remember now. The kid who kicked the urinal at the mayor at the Cubs and Sox game. Right? See, I remember what you tell me.” He stopped and looked back at me. “Except I don’t remember his name either, so guess it’ll have to be Wait.”
“Dang it. I don’t remember either. You made it worse and now it’s totally slipped my mind again. Just leave.”
Stay tuned. Be patient! You will soon be able to purchase a full copy of Face Your Fears, either in paperback or e-Book. And yes, Jude and Nate do meet. It takes time. Jude is 10 years older than Nate.
Didn’t I just say, be patient?