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One for the Team




 

There are a few levels of Bro Code. There’s the most basic, like, if your buddy spots a girl at the bar first, you have to be cool. Then we move up a level to something more demonstrative, like coming to dinner to keep everything comfortable with your friend’s mom’s new boyfriend. Then, there’s this story. This is Bro Code Extreme, Bro Code Amplified, a legend that transcends Bro Code to something almost God-like. 


And, seventeen years later, these guys are still in touch weekly. Because this is the kind of sacrifice that truly defines taking one for the team.


Smitty and Casey grew up on the outskirts of Boston in townhouses that shared both a porch and a shit load of family secrets since you could basically hear everything through the wall dividing the two homes. Casey was raised as an only child by a single mother, doing a hell of a job. Smitty’s house was much more chaotic with three boys, two parents, and an ancient Blood Hound named Boggs, all under one roof. The friends spent their summers rocking the baseball diamond, their winters sucking at basketball, and the rest of the time trying to live up to their parent’s expectations.


Smitty’s dad was a police officer at the local precinct and brought home to the dinner table an endless stream of stories of what could go wrong if a kid didn’t stay in line. His mother was a nurse, often working the night shift, who would make sure that she got home in time to get the boys dressed and comb their hair in a style that almost guaranteed an ass-kicking.  


Casey’s mom was a helicopter parent for another menu of reasons. She’d grown up in the same neighborhood and knew what kind of trouble beckoned around literally every corner because she’d spent time in most of them. So she installed cameras that were so well-hidden that she forgot about the one underneath the back porch until it started beeping for a new battery and driving her close to insane for almost two weeks while she searched for the source of the irritating noise. This is all to say that neither Casey nor Smitty were getting away with much…  Until one night in April of 2005.


Like most stories of teenage plans going awry, this one started with a sleepover. Casey’s mom was spending the weekend at Mohegan Sun with her new boyfriend and was immune to her son’s begging to be left alone. She coordinated his stay at Smitty’s house, now that his two older brothers had left for college and there was plenty of room in the adjoining townhome. With both of their mothers on their cases, these two guys had very little planned. There were two problems. Three if you count the lunar cycle.


One, they were seventeen and exploding full of hormones. This wasn’t their fault. Two, it was Spring in New England which any Masshole will tell you, is welcomed by an intense need to run around outside in the sweet air and thank the gods that you made it through another winter. Kids were partying in the woods, drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade. The guys were buying t-shirts just, like, half a size too small to show off the hundreds of hours of winter boredom in the gym. The girls applied bronzer on their faces and shoulders as if they had actually seen the sun for more than eleven minutes over the past four months. It was a time for heat, for hairspray, and for hook-ups. Three, it was a full moon which meant that a person who might be out in the middle of the night could see perfectly well.


Smitty and Casey stayed out of trouble until 1 am. They’d gone to Papa Gino’s for pizza, looked for a ripper, and couldn’t even find a proper party to crash, so they ended up hanging out with a group of friends with fake IDs at the bowling alley who bought them a six-er of Natty Lights. It wasn’t a waste of a night, though. Ashley Stevenson had been there with her big hoop earrings and low-slung belt which rendered Casey speechless. Smitty was stoked to be able to give him a hard time about it once they were back in his ’95 Jeep Cherokee that he’d inherited after both his brothers had trashed the reliable vehicle. 


They’d known Ashley since third grade and she and Casey had been flirting since they shared a box of colored pencils in Mr. Matthew’s art class. The twosome would often sit on the sidelines of the football games, deeply engrossed in conversations that had nothing to do with high school sports. Smitty, for the life of him, couldn’t understand why his buddy wouldn’t just make a move. They’d both graduated past the height of their wicked dorky phase and were on the other side. They weren’t quite the seniors in Dazed and Confused, but they were on the right track. 


Smitty thought that maybe Casey and Ashley had spent so much time together that they had both friend-zoned the other. But then he’d see how they looked at each other and would shake his head and think to himself, in the most endearing Boston tongue, this fuckin’ guy.


The truth was that both of them were shy as fuck and waiting for the other one to make a move and that he’d probably be a grandparent before they made out for the first time. He laughed at this thought as he bummed a cigarette from his brother Scotty’s ex-girlfriend, Macie, who seemed to have her eye on him but he pretended not to notice. Hooking up with anyone either his brothers, or even gotten a Friendly’s sundae with, was totally off-limits. So he concerned himself with watching Casey awkwardly open a beer for Ashley. But, like always, it didn’t go anywhere.


Still forced to adhere to a strict curfew, the boys bowed out of the parking lot and went back to Smitty’s finished basement to watch ESPN’s Spring Training coverage of the Sox. The boys changed into their high school mascot-branded sweats, made themselves comfortable on the futons, dimmed the Heineken stained glass lamp over the somewhat abused pool table, and ate the rest of their leftover pizza. It didn’t seem like the night was gonna go anywhere. And then, Casey got a text on his flip phone.


Oh my freaking god, it was Stephanie, Ashley’s best friend. Was there any chance that Casey wanted, to, like, meet up with her? Smitty jumped off the futon, punching his arm into the air as if  Big Papi had hit a bottom-of-the-ninth grand slam. 


“Fucking, yeah C-Man. Fucking, finally.”


But Casey just stared at the grey screen in disbelief, shaking his head. As far as Smitty was concerned, he should have been swinging from the low, exposed ceiling. 


“Dude, what is wrong with you?” Smitty reached his arms to the ceiling, invoking the virginity gods who he was sure were hovering above the old Panasonic TV. “This fuckin’ guy!”


The gods had nothing to say. Boog Sciambi’s voice predicted a strong outfield. Casey shrugged.


“My mom literally has our place booby-trapped with alarms and cameras and shit. There’s like, absolutely zero chance of me getting her over there. So what can I even do? Face it, dude, this is never going to happen.”


Smitty stopped his trampoline-ing on the mattress. Maybe it was the three shitty beers. Maybe it was the Dogwood trees beginning to blossom along their pot-holed street. Maybe it was the promise of a good year for their team. Who knows, whatever it was, Smitty wasn’t gonna let this opportunity just freakin’ disappear. Yeah, they both had scary moms. Yeah, they both got grounded for minor infractions. Yeah, neither one had ever had a girlfriend. But why should that stop them? It was like Varitek swinging hard outside the box and watching that little white ball sail past toward the Citgo sign at Fenway.


Smitty paused, then gestured to the row of cockeyed storm windows that lined the top of the basement wall. His very own Green Monster. It was an intimidating obstacle, yes. And, he’d never done it before. But, like the ‘04 Sox at the World Series, it was not impossible. And, because of the moon, there was plenty of light.


“Tell her to come to the side of the house. The gate looks locked but it's not. Push, don’t pull so it won’t squeak. Slide the window to the side….”


Casey’s eyes got wide. Then Smitty put the icing on the cake.


“ I’ll go up to my room. There’s only one bed down here so my parents won’t think it’s weird if I sleep up there.”


Casey couldn’t stop the grin that overtook his newly- stubbled face. His fingers flew over the numbers on his phone. Remember, this was when you had to type each key three times to get the right letter. So, his response took two minutes to write. 


Come over to Smitty’s. Basement windows.


And, at 1:09 am, Ashley Stevenson was shuffling her new Seven jeans through the tiny opening, dropping down into the basement at 726B Revere Avenue. True to his word as the awesome friend that he was, Smitty tip-toed up to his bedroom where he pulled out his laptop to study some box scores. 


Smitty was happy. For one, it looked like a promising start to the season for his beloved Red Sox and he was truly psyched about their pitching rotation. Second, he heard a couple of sporadic noises emanating from the floor below him. Damn, it had only taken Casey eight years to make a move but, you had to give it to the guy: when he made it, he really made it.  Smitty scrolled through the comments section on the website. Fans were down on Damon, optimistic about Wakefield, always rooting for Ortiz. Smitty was about to make what he thought was a brilliant bit of insight regarding the GM but his baseball thoughts were interrupted. Because…  the basement noises got louder.  A lot louder. Shit. Fuck. Shit. Options here were limited. 


Either Smitty was going to have to run down the stairs, interrupt his best friend having the literal best night of his entire life, or, one of his parents was going to do it. Neither of these outcomes felt particularly positive. Or, was there a third alternative?


This was the moment that our hero put himself in the running for the Best Friend Of The Year Award. Maybe of the decade. Smitty switched over his browser from Bar Stool Sports to Porn Hub. He clicked on the first video that he could upload. It was an orgy but that’s all he could tell you about the scene. It started with four people. And, he turned it up as loud as his Samsung speakers would allow. In the middle of the night, in the old Massachusetts house, it was, in fact, pretty damn loud. And that was when Smitty heard the unmistakable creak and groan of the wood floors as his father got out of bed. 


His heart raced. The group-sex situation on his laptop screen got more and more aggressive. Now there were seven people on his eleven-inch screen. It was definitely not his first choice in porn but this is what anyone would consider an emergency situation. The women had pulled out leather crops and were beating the blindfolded dudes while all seven - wait eight? nine? of them seemed to be moaning at the top of their lungs. It was, however, a great choice to mask the noises of the basement tryst. 


Smitty heard his father’s footsteps getting closer and closer to his room. Then he heard his mother,


“John, what is it?” 


And that’s when Smitty threw the covers over his whole body. The rusty hinges on his door alerted him to the fact that both of his parents were six feet away. That’s when he decided that he was too invested in this situation to go back now and that he better sell this performance as if his life depended on it. So he moved his fist up and down spastically, making sure that his hand punched the top of the covers to make it very clear to his audience what was happening. 


“Oh my what?!”


He heard his mother gasp as she spun on her slippered heel, clearly turning back to her own room. Smitty’s father was less easily deterred.


“Son, turn it DOWN.”


Now, Smitty had no idea what was happening with Casey. His speakers were loud and even he couldn’t hear what was going on in the basement. Maybe Casey was a total rockstar in the sack and he’d somehow have to keep up this charade for the next two hours like Ozzy Osbourne on God-knows-what in the 80s.


“Ok, Dad,” he squeaked out, unsure as to how he was going to play this out. He punched the covers another half-dozen times for effect and then very, very slowly lowered the volume on the orgy that had now migrated to a heart-shaped bed that was vibrating and making all of the participant’s bodies shake in a way that was whole-heartedly unappealing to our seventeen-year-old hero. He shuddered at the screen and braced himself for what he prayed was silence as he quieted the video. Luck was on his side. Casey was a teenage virgin. He did not need an hour. 


After what we are sure was a deeply satisfying experience, Ashley slipped back out the same basement window that she had entered thirty minutes earlier, now a woman of sorts, easily finding her way to her new Civic in the moonlight. Casey passed out into the deepest and most satisfying sleep that a person ever had on that old futon. And Smitty? Oh, poor Smitty couldn’t get comfortable. He tossed and turned and couldn’t find a good place for his arm. If only he had known that that would be the least of his concerns.


The next morning at the breakfast table, neither one of his parents could look him in the eye. Or the morning after that. Or the following Tuesday. Because they heard the dozen-person orgy blasting on their son’s computer. And they thought that’s what he was into. They left condoms on his dresser and piles of pamphlets about venereal diseases on his bedside table that his mother had obviously sourced from the hospital. She bought a white noise machine for her own room. And then, a second for her son’s. All eye contact at breakfast was intentionally avoided. After dinner, in front of the TV, with his legs propped up on the coffee table and the clicker in his hand, his dad would keep his eyes on the screen and a Mona Lisa smile on his lips and say,


“Hey son, what do you want to watch?”


The night wouldn’t go away. And Smitty wasn’t going to explain himself. He wasn’t going to throw Casey under The T.  He was a wicked good friend. The best friggin friend in the greater Boston area.    


Six weeks later, on May 28, 2005, Casey, who now walked taller, with an air of a man who knows a thing or two, surprised Smitty with tickets to Fenway to see their boys play the Yankees. He didn’t specifically say thank you, but the message was heard loud and clear. And, play they did. In a game that fans will still reference to this day, the Red Sox slaughtered the guys in pinstripes 17-1. So, are they even? Was it worth it? Of course. This fuckin’ guy….




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