Michael was surprised to see the tall blonde sitting on his sofa. He hadn’t told Matthew to recruit anyone, but there he was with one anyway. Suddenly, the boy stood up, turned to him, but before he could say anything Matthew chimed “Welcome home, master.”
“What the hell did you do to Maddy,” he said ignoring the interruption. “He doesn’t even recognize his own damned name anymore.”
“I didn’t ‘hurt’ him if that’s what you mean. Hell, the very fact that you’re standing here is proof of that. C’mon, do you really think he’d drag one of his ‘friends’ here if I was? Oh and you can quit calling him that – particularly since his name is ‘Matthew’ now and he’s not a fan of stupid nicknames anyway.”
“First off, ‘Maddy’ isn’t a ‘stupid nickname’ – it’s how he pronounced his name in kindergarten. Second, what the hell was wrong with the name ‘Madison,’ anyway?”
“You mean besides being pretentious? It’s also a reminder of his life before meeting me, the life he himself asked, nay, pleaded with me to erase just as I have with countless – okay, six – others. And I’m more than happy to do the same with you almost as much as Matthew here will be to have the company.”
“Michael,” the pretty, blonde headed girl said entering her ex’s apartment. “You left this at… Ah, damn it, not ANOTHER one!”
“Damn it, Claire,” he said. “Must you barge in on me EVERY time I try to induct someone? It kills the mood and instantly stops any progress I – sorry – we’ve made…”
Matthew dutifully – and without prompting from either of them – clasped his friend’s hand as soon as his master broke eye contact with his newest subject.
“So just leave whatever it is on the counter and I’ll get it when we’re finished. Now, I apologize for the interruption, do you want to continue… or would you rather quit for the time being?”
Claire goes to leave, and as she does the boy looks directly at her and drones “continue” with a flat yet oddly defiant tone…
“I see you’re as reliable as ever,” the ginger haired sophomore said. “Let me guess, you’re waiting for your supposedly ‘better’ half?”
“Yeah,” Daniel said sitting on the sofa next to the door.
“Ugh,” Claire said entering the dormitory. “You know I hate ‘volunteering’ at these stupid events. I don’t know why I let you talk me into helping you.”
“Because you LOVE me and would do ANYTHING to make me happy,” her short, raven haired boyfriend answered.
“Don’t try to pull that crap on me. You know full well that hypno shit doesn’t work on me. God knows Michael tried it enough times…”
“Ah, Daniel,” his RA said appearing from around the corner. “There you are, we just finished setting up the event room. We should be ready to start in a few minutes.”
“Good, that means I can LEAVE.”
“Claire, wait…Damn it, she’s gone.”
It didn’t take Madix all that long to get acclimated to his new home. His “master’s” bedroom was on the left when you came into the apartment and theirs was on the right, both rooms were approximately the same size and each had their own small bathroom. Michael hadn’t replaced the furniture after his previous roommate moved out, but he kept the posters in place giving the otherwise empty room a somewhat “lived-in” feel.
“Where do you sleep?”
Matthew points downward and Madix looks at him like he’s “kidding.”
“C’mon, he has to have a mattress or something here for you?”
“There’s a blanket in the closet…”
“Okay, I see that… but, um, where are your clothes?”
“You’re looking at them.”
“I see…well… at least, closet space won’t be a problem…”
“Ugh,” Daniel said. “I swear these closets get smaller and smaller with every event.”
“No,” the Resident Assistant said. “It just seems that way. Well, it’s okay, we’re going to have to organize it again later. Thanks for assisting with clean-up, you two were a big help today.”
“We aim to please,” Scott said. “We’ll be sure to send you the pictures once we upload them to Brendan’s website.”
“I’m sure they’ll look great in our newsletter too,” she replied (though she had no clue who this “Brandon” character was). “Which I still haven’t gotten around to writing yet… well, whatever, I’m sure you have other things to do on a Thursday night than go through worthless floor gossip and half-assed ‘announcements.’”
“Thanks for reminding me, I forgot all about my staff meeting at the paper.”
“Besides, if we weren’t helping you, we would probably be feeding the homeless or reading to sick kids at the hospital.”
“Yeah, there’s never a dull moment with Captain Hero, here.”
“So, now what do we do,” Madix asked dully.
“You know we went shopping this afternoon.”
“YOU did anyway.”
“No, WE did; laundry’s tomorrow and in twenty minutes, I’m going to start making his dinner.”
“What about me?”
“Well, of course, you’ll help me.”
“I guess – I mean: anything to make our ‘master’ happy.”
“Better, but I suppose if you really don’t want to help, there’s an X-Box in the living room. Eh, just as well, kitchen’s too small for two people anyway.
“In the meantime,” he said stripping off his belt and tossing it in the corner. “If you REALLY want to be helpful, there’s another little matter that could use your attention…”
Madix didn’t mind doing laundry as much as he thought he would. It was a fascinating show of motion and colors, and it was worth every quarter he put into the machine.
“You know,” Matthew said appearing behind him. “We’re not the first ones in this apartment to be tranced.”
“Really,” he replied distractedly.
“Yep, our master used to ‘serve’ someone named ‘Master Brendan’ until they had a falling out sometime before I met him. Apparently, I was his first recruit as a ‘free agent’ and I think I turned out quite well. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes,” he said mesmerized by the endless cycle of clothes tumbling together and seemingly melding into each other. “But I wonder…”
“Well…” he said as the buzzer woke up from his mini trance. “He may be out of this Brandon guy’s control, but do his triggers still work…?”
Michael sat at the last remaining table inside the campus coffee shop, when he opened his backpack to get his laptop out; a bunch of brochures fell out: The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
“How did these get in here?”
“I think you know,” Claire said taking the seat across from him. “A certain someone – or someones – is trying to tell you something. Apparently, they’ve figured out that subtlety doesn’t work on you.”
“They did seem unusually subservient this morning, and kept saying weird things like ‘your dream is our desire,’ ‘we wish we could do more for you,’ and that my smile ‘meant the world’ to them.”
“I see you remain as impervious to hints as ever.”
“What is THAT supposed to mean?”
“It means the only way they could make their wants any clearer is if they wished you a ‘magical day.’”
“Hey, those were Madix’s last words to me as I left this morning.”
“Good God, you really are hopeless.”
“I know what you’ve been doing to him,” Claire said entering her ex’s apartment. “HE doesn’t, but I do.”
“We have no idea what you’re talking about,” Matthew said.
“We would never hurt our dear master,” Madix continued.
“Oh,” she said flashing the brochures in their faces. “Then where did THESE come from?”
“Nothing wrong with dropping a few hints here and there.”
“You mean ‘hints’ like ‘your wish is our desire,’ ‘your smile means the world to us,’ and ‘have a magical day?’ You know full well he’s impervious to such subtlety… but he wasn’t supposed to ‘catch’ them, was he? They were simply plants so he would come up with the idea ‘on his own.’”
“What’s your point,” Madix said a little too sharply.
“Don’t you dare… wait a second,” she said walking up to him and staring him in the eyes. “One thing I learned from dating two tranced guys in the past year is they can’t snap at anyone when they’re ‘under.’”
“Okay,” he said with a shrug. “So I can’t be hypnotized, but HE sure as hell can. In fact, it’s ridiculously easy to do and he’s never aware of it – particularly if we do it together. We just drop a little ‘suggestion’ here and there about how much he ‘loves’ us and ‘can’t live without us’ and BAM we’re never homeless again.”
“Yeah,” Madix continued casually. “All I have to do in return is act dumb and make out with him while Matthew cooks, cleans and sucks his dick. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. Now the only question is: are you going to rat me out or not?”
“Why? Rats like you – who give their fellow rodents a bad name – are usually smart enough to cover their own tracks. You’ve probably already ‘programmed’ him not to believe anything I tell him anyway.”
“And they say ‘blondes are dumb.’ Now go bother someone else, we’ve got laundry and grocery shopping to do. Oh, and let’s not forget graduation trips to plan,” he said practically pushing her out the door. “Cuz we’re going to Disney… and you are not.”
“Really,” she said blocking the door with her foot. “If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that Michael is a good boy and good boys know who their friends are and you clearly aren’t one of them. See you in Mouse-land, loser.”
He locks the door behind her, waits until he hears the elevator ding and said: “Gah, she’s such a nuisance, a cute nuisance, but a nuisance nonetheless…”
Claire parked her blue Honda Civic in the “Red” lot and walked over to the long brick building on the western edge of campus. The closer she got the worse she felt, but she knew the longer she put it off the harder it would become.
She walked past the counter, not bothering to return the greeting from the girl at the reception desk. She pressed the button for the elevator and steeled herself for what would be one of the most difficult conversations she would have in recent memory.
Finally, she gets to the fifth floor and knocks on the door at the end of the hall – the one with the balloons floating happily into the sunset.
“Daniel,” she said as he opened the door. “There’s something I need to tell you…”
“Guys,” Michael said excitedly. “I’ve got some good news…and some bad news for you.”
The two followers (now wearing matching Mickey Mouse T-shirts) look at him anxiously, but say nothing.
“The GOOD news is my sister is coming by for the weekend. The BAD news is I’ll be spending the most of my time with her instead of you…which from your perspective is probably another ‘good’ as it gives you some down time. Anyway, we’re leaving for dinner in about an hour so you don’t need to worry about cooking for me. Heck, you should probably go out yourselves.”
“That’s not necessary,” Matthew said. “We enjoy pleasing our master – AND his family.”
“No, you deserve it with all the time you spend cramped up in here. Money’s on the counter, I’m going to take a shower and get dressed.”
“Well,” Madix said pocketing the envelope as Michael disappeared into the bedroom. “If you’re not going…”
Shortly after Claire left, Scott approached Daniel’s still open door. But before he could say a word, Daniel put his finger to the ginger haired boy’s lips and said “shush.”
Daniel didn’t need to say anything, Scott knew intrinsically what he was feeling and was more than willing to let him cry on his shoulder – in fact, he desperately wanted him too. However, Daniel was determined to keep a strong face for his friend, after all this was his problem not theirs.
As Scott stood in the doorway trying to find a way to comfort Daniel, a darker voice echoed in the back of his mind: “‘…and if someone – ANYONE – tries to hurt him…’”
Scott and Madix arrived at the bar at the same time. They had never met each other, but they felt an instant camaraderie. In fact, it quickly became apparent that they shared more than a sour mood – particularly when a certain blonde haired girl in a green shirt strode into their hole-in-the-wall completely oblivious to their presence.
However, they weren’t the only ones to see her enter. A dark haired boy about Daniel’s height with light brown skin and a bright replica soccer jersey sat alone at the table next to theirs staring at her with a mix of bitterness and lust.
“Hehe, okay, blondie, come to papi.”
“That can be arranged,” Scott said pulling up a chair next to him as if they’d been friends for years. “She is single…broke up with her boyfriend just this afternoon. It’s tragic really…”
“But not for you…” Madix continued taking the seat across from his ginger-headed cohort. “No, this is an opportunity – YOUR opportunity – and we’re more than happy to help you achieve it.”
“After all, we LOVE helping people. It’s what we do…”
“I know,” Michael said. “He seemed almost disappointed about not getting to cook anything for us.”
“Well, it sounds like you’re lucky to have him. I wish MY roommate would offer to cook meals for me.”
“Oh, I’m sure that could be arranged…”
“Heck,” she continued barely hearing her younger brother’s comment. “Regardless of how good or bad he cooks, it would be still cheaper than eating here AND we’d probably be getting better service.”
“You don’t know the half of it. Excuse me, waiter? Damn. Excuse me, could we? Fuck. What the hell do we have to do to get another glass of water around here?”
“I don’t know, but it’ll probably cost more than you’ve more than you’ve got on you.”
“Yes, Carlos,” Scott said. “If you want to succeed, you have to picture in your mind what success looks like.”
“Just close your eyes, relax and picture yourself alone on a deserted beach with her as the sun sets behind you.”
“Breathe deeply. Focus.”
“Imagine her luscious breasts hanging in front of you like low hanging fruit. They’re so tantalizing you want to touch them.”
Carlos lifts his hands off the table as if trying to grab them, and Madix takes a piece of peeling plastic from the side of the table, pulls it back slightly and releases it with a SNAP causing their friend to wince in pain even though it was nowhere close to hitting him.
“We said you ‘WANT to touch them’ not you could. Do you want to continue this exercise or not?”
“Then you need to dig deeper and focus harder on your objective!”
“Ignore everything else around you except the sound of our voices. We will guide you to your objective…”
Michael didn’t see the man at the end of the bar with the grey shirt. Hell, he could barely see his own waiter, so it didn’t come as a surprise that he didn’t see the man vanish into thin air either.
Except he didn’t “vanish,” he stood in the corner of the bar near the kitchen as if waiting to use the nearby restrooms. Then a young man in a black waiter’s uniform brushed past him, and he grabbed his arm.
“Who’s serving that table over there,” he said before his captive could protest, “the one by the window?”
“I don’t know,” the server said irritably. “And I don’t care either.”
Suddenly, the mysterious man holds his hand in front of the server’s face and quickly snaps his fingers just out of his peripheral vision.
“Who’s serving that table over there?”
“I…am…sir,” he said flatly.
“Much better, now get to work. You’ve got customers to serve, oh,” he said with a devious smile, “and one more thing…”
All Claire wanted was a few drinks to help her forget her day. Unfortunately, all her friends wanted to do was ask her about Daniel, and, as much as she hated lying to her friends, there was no way she could answer their questions honestly without giving away his “secret” (and thus implying that she was somehow complicit in it).
“Look, I need…I don’t know what I need just something…different – something he can’t give me. Does that make any sense to you?”
“Everyone needs to finds themselves at some point, I guess now it’s your turn.”
“You really think so?”
“Yes, go out, explore the world, meet new people and eventually you’ll find exactly what you were looking for…”
“Sure,” she said skeptically. “Like the perfect guy for me is just going to come striding in out of nowhere and offer me a drink…”
“Water,” Will asked holding a pitcher in his hands.
“Yes please,” Rachel said, and he dutifully refills both glasses.
It might have been his imagination, but Michael thought for sure his server was slowly spelling out “M…I…C…” as he refilled his glass.
“Did you say something?”
“No,” said continuing his song under his breath. “You… real… soon…”
“I thought for sure I heard you say something. Ah, never mind, thank you.”
Carlos steels his nerves as he approaches the front of the bar and walks up to Claire who’s leaning against the counter talking to some friends.
“Hi, can I get you a drink?”
“Get lost, pig.”
He turns around dejectedly and after three steps nearly collides into his new friends.
“Well,” Madix said. “That didn’t go well, did it?”
“Fortunately, Carlos is a strong boy, a resilient boy and most importantly Carlos is a GOOD boy…”
“Yes, he is,” Scott said patting his shoulder reassuringly. “And good boys like you ALWAYS have a ‘Plan B.’ Don’t they, Carlos?”
“This isn’t the first time you’ve been rejected by a member of the ‘fairer sex,’ is it?”
“Well,” Scott said. “As my father likes to say ‘anyone who rejects you, isn’t worthy of your time anyway.’ Would you agree with that?”
“Maybe, you should consider switching sides. You’ve always gotten along better with boys anyway, haven’t you?”
He thinks for a moment and then slowly says “yes” as if a light just went off in his head.
“That was the problem all along, you were gay – and always have been – you just never wanted to ADMIT it until just now.”
“Yes…I was always gay…couldn’t admit it until now…”
“And in fact, you love us, don’t you? It’s okay, you know we will never harm you just as we know you will never harm us, would you?”
“NEVER…sir,” he replied as if that was the dumbest question he’d ever heard.
“In fact, you want to make us HAPPY, don’t you?”
“YES,” he said deliriously.
“It’s all you want. It’s what you dream about at night…”
“And the first thing you think about when you wake up, and you would do anything in the entire world to achieve that, wouldn’t you?”
“Absolutely anything,” he beamed. “Because, Carlos is a good boy…”
“Yes,” Madix said kissing him on top of the head causing him to blush embarrassedly. “Yes, he is…and we love him to death…”
“Now…it’s…time…to…say…goodbye,” Will sang picking up Michael’s check and taking it over to the register.
“To… all… our… company… That leaves us with two choices: you can go back to being the snooty server ignoring his customers…or…you can continue serving me. Remember, Will is good boy.”
“See, I knew you’d make the right decision. Good boys ALWAYS do. Now… go deliver their change. I’ve got other plans for you…”
“Good evening, Claire,” a vaguely familiar voice said as she approached her car.
“Who are you, and what are you doing out here?”
“Just getting a little air, that bar was getting a little stuffy.”
He took a step towards her, and she instinctively took one backwards only to collide into a second person standing immediately behind her.
She tries to scream, but a hand comes up from behind her and covers her mouth. Suddenly, she felt a sharp, pressure across the front of her neck and she fell instantly to the ground.
“He’s my friend,” he said crouching down and lifting her barely conscious head up by the hair. “‘…And ANYONE who tries to hurt him…’ Well, I think you can guess the rest…” he said letting her head fall back onto the ground.
“Good-bye, Ms. Parson. You were nothing more than a nuisance anyway. A cute nuisance, but still a nuisance.”
He takes her keys and throws them to his accomplice, “The blue Honda Civic on the corner, I think you know what to do with it.”
Michael came back from dropping his sister off at her hotel to find his followers sitting on the sofa in the same matching Mickey Mouse T-shirts they were wearing when he left.
“You’re not going to believe this,” he said excitedly. “My sister was scheduled to go to Disney World next week with her friends… but they dropped out and she doesn’t want to go alone so she offered to let me and two friends stay in her villa for five days. Isn’t that awesome?”
“That’s very generous of her, master.”
“Now the only problem is finding two people worthy of going with me – and, of course, the ONLY option I could come up was the two of you.”
“If you wish, master,” Madix said. “After all, we are very grateful for any opportunity to please you – regardless of where it is…”
“Wow,” Scott said. “You’re looking resilient for someone who just lost his girlfriend. What are you doing up so late anyway?”
“Brendan wasn’t happy with the photos from today’s project so I’m planning another one for tom…,” he looks at his watch and continues, “well, today actually. You can join me if you want, I’ll need someone to take photos anyway. Besides, as my mom always said: ‘any girl who would dump you wasn’t worthy of your time anyway.’”
“A wise woman, she and my dad would probably get along. Well, anyway, I’m going to bed. If you need anything – ANYTHING at all – just let me know. You know where to find me, good night, Daniel.”
“Good Night, Scott,” he said with a tired smile. “You’re a good friend…”
“Thank you,” he said blushing. “You have no idea what that means to me…”
One week later, the three of them arrive at their resort. Michael had given instructions on how they were not to make his meals (as they “came with the room”), address him as “master” or act in an obviously subservient manner. In fact, when they got to the room, the first thing he did was dismiss his “friends” for the afternoon and laid down for a nap.
“Well, they certainly didn’t skimp on the pool,” Madix said. “God, it’s huge…”
“And crowded too, where are we going to put our stuff down? I don’t see a single open chair.”
“You can use mine,” a bespectacled young man said approaching them. He looks Matthew in the eyes and suddenly his own went blank. “My name is Dave…and I serve Master Brendan…My parents don’t know … but my brother does… I’ll move my stuff onto his chair…”
“Ahem,” Madix said. “I’m here too.”
“He can’t see or hear you in this state,” Matthew said flatly. “But I can introduce you if you want…”
He turns the mousy haired boy towards Madix and as he does so the young blonde is momentarily blinded by a bright flash of light. He then stares blankly into Dave’s eyes transfixed by the image of the sunlight dancing on the water reflecting off the window behind him directly onto Dave’s glasses.
“The light,” Madix said, his voice getting slower and flatter as he talked. “…It’s so beautiful…how it shimmers…moving with the waves…”
Matthew slowly raises his fingers up and quickly snaps them just out of Madix’s peripheral vision causing his head to fall limply onto his friend’s shoulder.
He kisses the top of the boy’s head and whispers: “Madix is a good boy, and always will be. Now open your eyes and meet Dave…”
“Well, that was a fun trip, wasn’t it,” Michael said as they exited the elevator.
“Yes, it was very nice of your sister to pay for it for us.”
“I know, she’s full of surprises, but at least we don’t have to worry about any more of those happening any time soon. Could you get the door for me? My hands are full.”
“Yes, master,” Matthew said.
He opened the door, and he and Madix came in to find Carlos and Will sitting patiently on the sofa, their faces lighting up when they recognized their respective masters.
“Welcome home, sir,” they said simultaneously…
A Facebook page called “Queertism” shared a link to a poem they found on “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism” about the heartbreaking realization that a new “friend” is only using you for school credit and will go back to hanging out with the cool kids when their “assignment” is over.
Well, I was one of those “assigned friends” as a student at Benchmark Transitions (formerly Benchmark Young Adult School). It was supposed to make the arrogant douchebag (who made zero effort to hide his annoyance with me or his assignment) I was “assigned” more humble. It didn’t.
That’s the primary reason why I refused to participate in “Best Buddies Day” in college (“make a friend for life,” by using them as a prop to feel good about yourself for a day), and “Disabilities Awareness” merit badge in Scouting (which now only requires you to “…spend a day with a disabled scout…” [3a]), and while I cringe at Allistic Scouts explaining disabilities to their troop/pack (5a), it has added a new requirement about “pledging to show a positive attitude about people with disabilities” (req. 6).
Thank you for reading this, and, as always, thank you for being a friend…
Today I went to Publix to buy milk. I took the Red Line trolley to the end of the line. I got lunch at the Subway next to the store, bought my low-fat milk and waited 10 minutes for the trolley back to my apartment.
“STOP,” the driver barked opening the door, but refusing to let me on. “Why you always pay just quarter? I ask(ed) you a question. Why do YOU pay a quarter? That rate is for people who WORK along route. You no work. You have no work, do you? You ‘work’ here? Fine, show me an ID from your job?”
Wait, what? I thought it was a “resident” rate, but I could be misinformed.
“Huh,” he taunted before I could answer him. “Ha, you don’t have one. You are not ‘special,’ unless you are a senior or in a wheelchair – which are neither – you pay this much,” taps signs on farebox.
Right, because only people in wheelchairs are “disabled?” Gotcha.
“You see that,” he said condescendingly. “Do you? THAT is how much you pay. I am not a fool. I have job, and I am doing it. Now, you pay $2, or you do not get on. Period.”
I remember my Nextbus app saying “6 minutes” and then “39 minutes.” It probably wouldn’t have been THAT long as I was at the second stop on the route… but I didn’t feel like chancing it, so I pulled out 2 $1 bills (out of the $5 that were in my wallet) so the hero driver wins the day.
But victory wasn’t enough for him. He has to lecture me about how I can’t be mad at him for “doing (his) job” when I don’t have one of my own (because I was holding a SHOPPING bag, and “shopping is no working”). Finally, I just tune out his prattle and pretend this is all his being a jerk… and realizing I could get a “disability card” for Autism in Florida with a valid assessment (which I don’t have at the moment) and a consultation with an affiliated psychologist.
Three stops later, the driver stops for a young black man in a grey T-shirt with “DKNY” written on it with baggy white sweatpants. He drops a quarter in the farebox and heads to a seat across from me without a word from the driver.
See, I thought with a passing smile, I am “special” after all…
Today is “Fire Sprinkler Inspection Day” at Sea Isle (required by law for all apartment complexes in Florida). The fire Marshal, apartment manager and maintenance supervisor come around to poke around the apartment – including the closets 😮 – to check smoke detectors and see if you have the right number of fire sprinklers in your unit.
I can hear the alarms getting louder, so they must be coming soon. I HATE the alarms they’re extremely loud and the flashing lights give me a headache. At least this time I won’t be in the shower…
“Fire Marshal,” he shouted over the roar of the water. “You have less than one minute to open this door before I knock it the fuck down!”
Back to the present, I’ve been hanging out on the balcony with headphones on for the past hour as the noise from the other buildings has gotten steadily louder.
I think they left now, but it was 15-20 minutes of pure TERROR while they were doing my section of the building as even with headphones the noise was absolutely deafening.
Fortunately, I wasn’t naked this time (as my balcony overlooks the main walkway through the complex). However, I still managed to make a fool of myself in front of the Fire Marshal and the maintenance woman when I was blinded by the flashing lights AND doubled over in pain from the noise (as jolting up when they knocked on my neighbor‘s door threw the earbuds out of my ears leaving my ears unprotected). I have no idea how they do that without earplugs.
Oh, and the inspection of my unit itself took less than a full minute so there was that…