“Modest, gem-like, and oddly affecting, the sixteen quite short stories of Full Frontal present intimate moments of one gay man’s not untypical life in the late twentieth century. And, like a bracelet or necklace of quirky, individual charms, they ultimately add up to the kind of surprising cumulative effect one usually only gets from knowing someone well for a long time.”
It is August of 1957, and Tim Halladay, a caddie at the Long Shore Country Club, is looking forward to beginning eighth grade at Assumption School. Tim and his best friend and fellow caddie, Jimmy, are oblivious to the fact that they are slowly transforming into young men with secret desires.
As Tim embarks on a journey of emotional and sexual development, he approaches the world around him with a “full frontal” attitude that allows him to somehow not only survive but thrive, beginning with his first gay experiences as a shy teenager in suburban Connecticut and moving through his escapades at a Virginia army base, the Hotel Manhattan, the Museum of Modern Art, the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and lavish suites at various upscale hotels and resorts. As Tim moves from one encounter to the next, he gradually transforms, moving toward a future as a rising star.
Full Frontal shares an intriguing glimpse into the life of a gay man, as told through his eclectic relationships as he eventually discovers that true happiness is all about give and take.
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FULL FRONTALTo Make a Long Story Short
By TOM BAKER
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Tom Baker
All right reserved.
Jimmy and Tim were caddies at the Long Shore Country Club the summer before they would enter eighth grade at Assumption School, the last year before going on to prep school. Tim did not know that the grueling sessions with Sister Mary Claire after regular school hours would win him a scholarship to Fairfield Prep. He also did not know that the nuns had somehow found copies of past entrance exams and shared the questions and answers with their star pupils, including Tim.
Jimmy and Tim were both becoming young men without realizing it. They rode bikes to the links every day and waited to be called out of the caddy pool of other boys waiting for an assignment. It was competitive, but if you got a foursome who played eighteen holes, the money was good—provided the players liked you. Tim often carried two sets of clubs, one on each shoulder, while the players rode the course in electric golf carts. By the end of eighteen holes, Tim's shoulders ached and had red welts. Jimmy was smaller and could handle only one set of clubs, which meant he made less money. Tim liked being out on the course. It was immaculately manicured and just steps from Long Island Sound. He dreamed of one day being able to play as a member, but he knew that probably would never happen.
It was late August, only a few weeks before school would reopen after Labor Day—the end of summer. The radio weather predictions called for thunderstorms in the afternoon, high winds, and lightning. That was enough to deter the golfers to the Nineteenth Hole, the cocktail lounge at the clubhouse. There would be no more tips for caddies that afternoon.
Jimmy and Tim finished the bologna and cheese sandwiches Tim's mom had made for them and got on their bikes for one last swim at Compo Beach. The sun was still out, but the leaves on the maple trees were turning backward in the wind, a sure sign a storm was coming.
They got to the beach and parked their bikes next to the wooden bathhouses. Tim's mom rented a bathhouse there every summer, a privilege available only to residents of Westport. She painted hers white, so it stood out among the other weatherworn wooden compartments. Tim had a key, and he and Jimmy went in to change into their bathing suits. The water in the sound was warm, typical for late August, and fortunately there were no jellyfish. The tide was low so the two swam to the wooden float and stretched out. There were very few people on the beach. Clouds were starting to come in over the sound, so Jimmy and Tim decided to swim back to shore. They changed into dry clothes in the bathhouse and then lay out on towels spread on the lawn, watching the clouds and the leaves folding backward on the maple trees. They gave each other back rubs, as they always did after a swim.
"We'd better be going," Tim said as he looked at the graying clouds that hovered above.
"Yeah, I guess so," Jimmy agreed.
They picked up their backpacks and towels and got on their bikes for the ride back to Jimmy's house, just past the Long Shore Country Club on Compo Road. It looked like the storm was about to come onto land. Although it was only four o'clock, it was already getting dark.
"You boys get in here," Jimmy's mom directed. "It's going to get nasty soon. I heard it on the radio. They're predicting possible tornados, and a cold front coming in from the west."
"Wow!" Jimmy said. "So soon?"
"These storms have a mind of their own," Jimmy's mom added. "You boys better put your bikes in the garage, and shut the door tight."
"Okay, Mom," Jimmy said obediently.
"Timmy, I've called your mom and told her you are staying here for supper and overnight. You can sleep in the bunk bed in Jimmy's room. Your mom said that was fine. She didn't want you riding your bike in this storm. So that's the plan."
"Fine," Tim said, "if that's okay with her." Tim was looking forward to spending the night with Jimmy. They had camped out in tents with the Boy Scouts, but this was different. He would be alone with Jimmy in his bedroom.
"It's macaroni and cheese," Jimmy's mom announced as she put two plates on the kitchen table. "I didn't have much else to fix on short notice."
"This is great." Tim smiled. "One of my favorites."
"Here's your milk," Jimmy's mom said. "There are oatmeal cookies for dessert. It's not fancy, but it should hold you over."
"This is great," Tim said politely.
Jimmy's mom was older than Tim's. She had one leg shorter than the other, and she wore a heavy black shoe with a built-up heel on her right foot to compensate. She clumped around the kitchen as she prepared dinner for the boys. Jimmy's dad had never been a figure in the household, and Jimmy never spoke of him. Ever since they had met in first grade at Assumption School and became best friends, Jimmy only had a mom.
After cookies and milk, the boys went into the small living room and laid out a game of Monopoly on the card table. Tim was winning, with houses on Boardwalk and Park Place, when the lights went out.
The rain was starting outside, first a slow patter, and then more deliberately. The wind was picking up, and loud claps of thunder shook the house. Lightning illuminated the indoors of the house as Jimmy got out several candles so they could continue the game. The storm was coming in strong, and Tim was glad he hadn't ridden his bike home.
It was after nine o'clock when Jimmy's mom came into the living room to suggest it was time for the boys to go up to bed.
"The lights will probably be out all night," she said. "I heard on the portable radio that there were several trees down on Compo Road and that it was closed to traffic. Good thing you stayed here, Timmy."
"Yes, thank you, Mrs. Driscoll."
The winds had picked up, and the shutters on the windows were banging back and forth. It was going to be a major storm.
The boys folded up the Monopoly game and went upstairs to Jimmy's room, taking two candles with them. In the candlelight, they undressed down to their Jockey shorts, and Tim climbed up the small ladder to the top bunk. Jimmy blew out the candles and crawled into the bottom bunk.
The rain and wind had intensified, and now hail was pelting the window of the small attic bedroom. It sounded like bad men were throwing rocks against the window. The house shook as the thunder and wind grew fiercer.
"Tim," Jimmy called out from below, sounding frightened.
"Yes?" Tim replied, still awake.
"I'm scared. I think the house might blow away."
"No, it won't," Tim reassured. "It's been here a hundred years and has seen worse storms than this."
"Maybe. But I'm scared."
"You'll be fine. Just go to sleep."
After a few minutes with the wind and rain and hail blowing, Jimmy called out from the lower bunk.
"Tim ... can you come down?"
"Can you come down and crawl in with me? I'm scared."
"I guess so, if that makes you feel better."
"I'd like that. I'd like that a lot."
Tim slipped down the little ladder leading to the upper bunk and stood in front of Jimmy's bed. He had often thought of this but never believed it would ever come true. He stood for a moment in the darkness that was only occasionally illuminated by lightning flashes. Hail continued to pound the window as the wind and rain raged on.
Tim pulled the Indian blanket off Jimmy and slid into the lower bunk, close to his friend.
"Do you have enough room?"
"I'm fine," Tim said with a smile Jimmy couldn't see.
The boys wrapped themselves around each other and fell into a light sleep. The storm raged outside. It was still dark when Tim felt Jimmy's hand on his. Jimmy gently glided Tim's hand across his smooth stomach. Tim's little finger grazed the top of Jimmy's Jockey shorts, and then Jimmy slid Tim's hand down beneath his shorts. Nothing was said between them.
The sun was blazing through the small bedroom window. The storm had passed. It was morning.
"Are you boys up?" Mrs. Driscoll called from below. "I have cereal and juice on the table. Come down when you're ready. The power is back on."
Tim and Jimmy got dressed, not saying anything, replacing the covers on the bunk beds as if no one had slept there.
Mrs. Driscoll clumped around the kitchen, fixing bowls of Rice Krispies for the boys and pouring glasses of orange juice.
"Timmy, it was a good thing you stayed over." Mrs. Driscoll hovered, bringing buttered toast. "It was quite a storm. Some roads are still closed."
"Yes, thank you, Mrs. Driscoll," Tim replied politely.
"I called your mom this morning and said you would be coming home after breakfast. She wants you to get home."
There would be no caddying today because the links were soaked and littered with fallen tree limbs, so Tim would take the day to catch up on summer reading before school began. He and Jimmy opened the garage door, and Tim got his bike out for the ride home.
"You better take the bridge and go down Riverside Avenue," Mrs. Driscoll called out from the back kitchen door. "Compo Road is still closed."
"Yes, Mrs. Driscoll. I'll do that," Tim said, waving as he pedaled out the driveway. After crossing the drawbridge over the Saugatuck River and turning right onto Riverside Avenue, Tim stopped to take a break in front of Assumption Church and the school on the hill behind the church where he and Jimmy would start eighth grade in another two weeks. Tim looked out over the river as the tide came in. A few ducks and one lone swan swam with the incoming tide. Tim pressed the fingers of his right hand to his lips ... Jimmy!
Bobby's birthday was in May, and he turned sixteen, old enough to get his Connecticut driver's license. Tim had to wait another month for his sixteenth birthday, although he already knew how to drive. He'd practiced in his dad's Oldsmobile, which had a stick shift, in the Staples High School parking lot, and he knew he could pass the driver's test. It would be freedom to finally have his own license, and maybe his dad would even let him drive the classic '55 Thunderbird, his dad's personal toy. It would be great for dates.
Bobby had talked Tim into taking a few days off from his caddying job at the Long Shore Country Club to drive up to the Cape for a summer fling before they would have to return to Fairfield Prep for their sophomore year. Bobby's mom offered to let him take her Chevy convertible, and Tim's mom agreed to let him go. She liked Bobby and thought he was a responsible young man.
Tim had met Bobby the year before, when the two were awarded the only scholarships offered to Fairfield Prep students. Out of over three hundred applicants, they had scored highest on the entrance exams. There had been a reception at the Shore Point Beach Club sponsored by the ladies of the Bellarmine Guild, an organization of students' mothers and alumni from Prep. It was kind of like a ladies' garden club. Because the Guild funded the scholarships, Bobby and Tim had to attend a reception to accept their awards. Their pictures were in the Norwalk Hour newspaper; in them, they were holding envelopes handed out by the matronly president of the organization. The boys formed an instant bond, having suffered that ordeal together. They would become best friends throughout their four years at Prep, although they were very different. Bobby was the captain and quarterback of the football team. Tim was head cheerleader, and every time Bobby would take a hit or get injured, Tim would cringe, trying not to show his pain to fans in the bleachers.
Their trip to the Cape was planned for the week after Fourth of July. Bobby picked Tim up early Wednesday with the top down on the Chevrolet. Tim's mom had packed a lunch of her famous bologna sandwiches, a thermos of lemonade, and a package of Pepperidge Farm chocolate chip cookies. That would at least get the boys to the Cape. They pulled off at a rest stop outside Providence, Rhode Island, and dug hungrily into the lunch bag Tim's mom had prepared. For some reason food tasted better out of doors.
"It's probably a little more than an hour to Woods Hole, depending on traffic," Bobby calculated.
"Great, then we're on the Cape."
"We'll have to find a place to stay, but it will still be early and midweek. I'm sure it will work out. I just hope we can find a place on the beach. After this drive I'll be ready for a swim."
The boys folded the brown bag and wax paper that the bologna sandwiches had been wrapped in, took another swig of lemonade, chewed a chocolate chip cookie, and were back on the throughway, heading for the Cape. Tim was feeling good, riding with the top down next to his friend, just the two of them. Unconsciously a broad smile broke out across Tim's face.
It took a little longer than Bobby had estimated, but eventually the boys were crossing the bridge at Woods Hole and on the Cape. Traffic was light, so the ride was pleasant. Bobby pulled off at the South Yarmouth exit.
"I think I remember some motels along South Shore Drive right on Nantucket Sound. Let's take a look."
"Great," Tim said, happy to have Bobby in control.
After a few wrong turns, the boys ended up on South Shore Drive. Bobby was right. There were a lot of motels—most of them posting No Vacancy signs.
"Hey, there's one," Bobby pointed out. "The Surfcomber on the Ocean, and it's AAA approved." The sign looked promising.
"Looks great," Tim agreed.
Bobby pulled the convertible up to the front of the motel. "Let's see if there's room at the inn." Tim followed obligingly through the door to the small front office. There was no one behind the desk, but there was a small bell with a handwritten note reading "Please ring for service." Bobby tapped the bell a few times, and eventually a heavyset woman smoking a cigarette emerged from the room behind the office, out of which could be heard the monotone of a television.
"Hi, boys," she said, stopping to cough and then taking a long puff on her cigarette. "How can I help you?" She was friendly, if a bit unsteady.
The woman looked at Bobby and then Tim suspiciously.
"Do you have any room?" Bobby asked.
"You're in luck, boys. I've had an early checkout, and there is a room, but only for tonight and tomorrow. We're all booked for the weekend. It's a double, water view, sixty-nine dollars a night, payable in advance."
"Is that all right with you, Tim?"
"Yeah ... sounds great."
Bobby pulled out a wad of cash and paid for two nights. At the beginning of the trip they'd agreed that Bobby would be in charge of finances, and then later on divide the costs once they got home.
"You boys can park anywhere out front. I see that fancy convertible you're driving. There's a pool, but no lifeguard on duty, so be careful. Don't use the room towels to go to the beach or the pool. There are plenty of towels in a bin by the pool." She pulled out a little Xerox copy map of the property and circled their room's location with a pencil.
"You boys are here, in room 106. The pool is there, and the beach is just down the wooden stairs. You're lucky: you have a waterfront room. At this time of year, they're usually sold out. Have fun."
"Thanks," Bobby said. "Are there any good places to eat nearby?"
"There's the Clam Shack down the road, a three-block walk. The food is good, but not fancy. If you tell them you're staying here, they'll give you a ten percent discount. It's family-style, and the prices are cheap compared to a lot of other places around."
"We'll check it out later." Bobby smiled.
"Here's your key," she coughed again. "Behave yourselves, boys!"
They dragged their duffel bags out of the convertible, and Bobby put the ragtop up. They followed the map the woman had given them to room 106. It was on the first floor and faced the pool and was only a short distance to the wooden stairs leading to the beach. The room was fine, though it did smell of cigarette smoke. There were two double beds, and if the door was left open, the smell of the ocean made the room more pleasant.
"How about a swim?" Bobby tossed his duffel bag onto the bed nearest the door.
"Sure, that sounds great."
They changed into swim trunks, careful not to look at each other. For best friends, they were still very shy.
Although the motel was supposed to be full, there was no one at the pool where the boys sprawled out on lounge chairs. Bobby dove into the pool first, doing breaststrokes back and forth several times. He was a true athlete, and Tim enjoyed watching him in the water. Tim lowered himself gradually into the pool for a swim but climbed back up the metal ladder after a few minutes to stretch out on the lounge chair and bask in the afternoon sun. He dozed off while Bobby was still doing laps. He must have been sleeping over an hour when he felt Bobby's hand on his shoulder.
Excerpted from FULL FRONTAL by TOM BAKER Copyright © 2012 by Tom Baker. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsJimmy August 1957....................1
Bobby July 1959....................7
Baby August 1960....................18
Eddie August 1967....................22
Marine May 1968....................31
Perry July 1968....................41
Jacks August 1970....................49
Three July 1972....................56
Lion August 1973....................60
Julius' December 1974....................66
Museum December 1974....................76
Chocolate December 1974....................82
Danny January 1975....................87
Jury February 1975....................94
Cheeseburger August 1975....................102
Balloons June 2014....................111