All rights to characters and their names belong to Susan Hinton

Rest in peace, Patrick, and thanks to you, too, for being the first to give Darry his voice!

A Talk Amongst Brothers


"Pony, it's time you and I had a talk."

I finally had him alone, and I sort of felt bad that I had to lie to him to get him to come with me out here to do this. He thought I was taking him to the library, and maybe we actually would swing by there later, but for now, I had another agenda.

He groaned. "What did I do now?"

The guilty expression on his face always worried me, made me wonder what he was doing that I didn't know about, that he knew he would get in trouble for. I couldn't watch him every moment of the day, even with the guys being my eyes and ears in the background. Now that he was fifteen and being less apprehensive around girls, it only made me worry more.

"Nothing that I know of," which was as close to the truth as I wanted to reveal. "But I still need to talk with you."

I pulled into Bryler Park, a place so far away from everything that rarely anyone came here, except the odd fisherman or two. There was a field for football on one side and a couple of swings as well as a jungle gym for little kids on the other side. A huge lake lay between them with picnic benches and rarely used permanent grills laid out in various locations around it. As expected, no one was here. I grabbed the shopping bag and headed to one of the benches, sitting on the table top waiting while Pony followed me, his shoulders hunched like he was waiting for a scolding.

"I saw you and Tina walking near the track field yesterday. She seems nice." I started. In all honesty, I didn't like her, she seemed prissy and stuck up. I was frankly surprised Pony had been hanging around her so much, as she really didn't seem his type.

He gave me a sarcastic look. "You need to work on your lying skills, Darry. I know you don't like her."

"Okay, fine. I don't like her. But you do."

He shrugged. "She's in my Spanish class and is the only one as fluent as I am. I can't get better with a foreign language if I only read it. I have to hear it, too."

I nodded, but this wasn't where I was wanting to go with this.

"You two seemed rather close just to be having a Spanish lesson." I noted. He rolled his eyes.

"What's this about? Really?"

"It's time I made sure you knew the ins and outs of physical relationships." Hell, even I couldn't say the word. But Pony could. He turned beet red and had a stunned look on his face.

"Not the sex talk!"

I nodded, trying my best to stay calm. "Yes, the sex talk."

The look of chagrin was still facing me. Finally he had a response.

"Mom already covered it with me, so you're off the hook."

Now it was my turn to roll my eyes. He was usually better at lying than I was, but not this time.

"Right. You expect me to believe our mother gave you the sex talk when you were thirteen? Try again. They didn't even give it to me until I was sixteen."

"Then wait another year." He said with gritted determination.

"No can do. This is something we need to talk about; I need to make sure you understand everything, so we need to just do this and get it over with."

He looked like I'd just taken away everything he held precious.

"This is just as uncomfortable for me as it is for you, so stop sweating it." I looked around again at the emptiness around us. "There's no one here to bother us, so stop getting upset."

"I already know where babies come from, Darry. I haven't been living under a rock, ya know."

"Good, glad to know the fundamentals that every guy learns by the fifth grade didn't skip you. Now it's time for the finer points."

He glared at me, then I realized what I'd said and tried to hide my own embarrassment.

"No pun intended." I corrected. I shook my head, knowing all the double meanings and innuendo were going to kill this conversation before I had a chance to make sure he understood everything. "Look, Pony, it's natural for a guy to be interested in a girl after a certain point in his maturity. Soda hit it earlier, I hit it later, and you fell smack in the middle."

"I so wish I weren't here right now," he mumbled as he sat down next to me.

"I have to make sure you understand what's going on. It's my responsibility, to you - and to Mom and Dad. In their absence, I have to ..."

"Cut it, Darry. I know you have to do the 'parental responsibility' thing, we've been through that subject countless times before."

He was getting frustrated, so I moved on.

"Fine, just so you know I'm not here to make your entire life miserable without a good reason." I smiled, hoping he'd catch the joke and lighten up. He didn't. I sighed and forged ahead.

"It's not like I want you having sex, Ponyboy. You're too young." God, was he too young. He'd always be too young. I still remember him wearing diapers, and that seemed like only yesterday. "But I know what I want and what's reality won't often match up, so the least I can do is make sure you know what to expect, and what you can expect if you forget something."

He grimaced, but not at me. He was still looking at something across the lake, his eyes fixed on some faraway point and not moving. I knew he was listening though.

"Once you get caught up in the moment, you tend to forget things that otherwise you wouldn't. You'll say to yourself, 'just one more touch, just one more look, just one more taste..."

That yanked him of his gaze.

"You mean, you went down on a girl?" His face was a mix of shock, disgust and amazement. I swallowed hard and blanched a bit. It took me a half second to compose myself again, forgetting entirely that there were other meanings for taste.

"We're not talking about me, Ponyboy." God, what had I gotten myself into? "Things just tend to happen once you're in the moment - your body takes over and the brain shuts off. So you'd better be careful and know what you're doing, cause there's no room for 'oops' later."

He gave me another look and returned to whatever far off thing he was keeping his eyes locked on.

"You remember what happened to Soda. I believed him when he said it wasn't his, but he was still willing to take responsibility for it anyway. Whether I agreed with that decision or not is a discussion for later, but the point is, one mistake can cost you the next eighteen years of your life, if not your entire life. You, Ponyboy, have too much potential for greatness than to spoil it in what amounts to a few minutes of bliss. Trust me, it's not worth it. So listen to what I have to say, ingrain it so it's second nature. I'm serious, Pone. I don't want to see you get snared in a web you'll never get out of.

"I'm just saying that once you're there, feeling her and getting all worked up into a frenzy, applying the brakes gets to be the hardest thing to do. Sometimes it's damn near impossible."

He suddenly looked down, picking a stray blade of grass off his shoe. I vaguely wondered just how far he'd already gone and if I was already too late. With him, I couldn't tell. Now for the hard part: get all scientific and medical with it, or just flat out blunt. I hadn't been able to decide all day. At the last second, I opted for blunt.

"It ain't just cumming in her that can get a girl pregnant, either, although that would certainly do it. Pre-cum has sperm in it too, so don't think that a little slip-sliding action before the big kick off won't get you in trouble."

I'd never in my life seen him turn so red.

"Don't trust her when she says she's on the pill. You'll never know if she's actually been taking them every single day like she's supposed to – until she comes to you and says the infamous phrase... 'I'm late, and we need to talk.' Don't go by the calender, either. I know you're smart and can count the days faster than anyone else, but very few women are dead-on with their cycles. They have a special name for those who use the rhythm method … they're called parents. Don't trust any of that stuff. Only you can be responsible for yourself. Use a rubber. Each time, every time. From start to finish. No exceptions. That clear?"

I looked at him, barely able to hear the "yeah" that came from his unmoving lips. He still hadn't moved his eyes.

"Ponyboy, I'm as serious as I can be. I gotta know you understand me. Do you? No exceptions! Ever! Failing to do so will destroy your future. You'll never have the life you should have if you don't listen and take me seriously. This is too damn important. Is it clear? Condoms! Every time! No exceptions!"

"Yes, Darry! I understand! Rubbers, condoms. I got it. No exceptions! Fine! But you're jumping the gun on this … I haven't exactly gotten to that point yet!"

If he held his arms around himself any tighter, he'd probably not be able to breathe. That gave me some comfort. If he was this embarrassed, he probably wasn't at that point yet. But one day, he would. At least he'd be prepared. At least he'd know.

"Good. If there's one lesson you will listen to and remember, it's got to be this one. It's the one thing I can't save you from if you forget."

I reached in the grocery bag and took out a Pepsi, offering him one but he only shook his head. I'd never seen him refuse a Pepsi before. Still, I trudged on. I wasn't quite through.

"Besides, there's other reasons for using rubbers. I'm sure you wouldn't appreciate a case of the clap ..."

"God, Darry, are you ever going to stop?!" Pony was close to gouging his own eyes out. This, however, was for his own good. I tried to speed this up, knowing he was inches away from bolting away from here. I was fast in my own right, but I'd never be able to catch him.

"I'm almost done. There are lots of sexually transmitted diseases, none of which you want. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes... and more. They'll leave you dripping, oozing, itching, burning; and your equipment in such bad shape you'd rather it be cut off. Most of it can be cured with medicine, but not all of it. And if you ever find anyone to settle down with and marry," man, that was a long way off - I hoped, but still... "then I'm sure you wouldn't want that predicament to be a discussion on your wedding night. So, use your brain, use the rubbers. Every. Single. Time. Of course, all that would be avoided if you just abstained entirely, but like I said, this is reality, not fantasy. Not that this is permission to go out and get laid, just... be smart. Be careful. Okay?"

He nodded, his head now buried in his arms, crossed over his knees with his legs tucked as close to him as the table we were sitting on would allow. Looking at him, he looked like he'd drawn himself up in a ball and resembled a pill bug. I refused to laugh.

"One last thing..."

"God, kill me now!" he begged in a low tone. I smiled, knowing exactly what discomfort he felt. After all, Dad had given me a similar talk years ago, and now Ponyboy was going to have to do the same thing with me that I had to do with Dad. I wondered briefly if he'd react with as much chagrin as I had. I reached in the bag and pulled out a typical, ordinary, averagely thick cucumber; and the box of condoms I'd bought this morning.

"You need to show me you can put this on the right way." I held out one of the packaged rubbers and the cucumber, waiting. I was ready to wait all day if I had to, but he wasn't getting out of this.

He looked up - disbelief, agony and defiance reflecting in his eyes.

"You want me to do what?"

"Put this on." I calmly repeated.

His eyes went from the rubber to his crotch, trying to understand my meaning. I rolled my eyes and shook my head.

"Not yourself, Ponyboy! The cucumber. It's not the same, I know; but it'll do. Clamp it between your knees and slide the rubber on, as if it were your own equipment.

"You have got to be kidding me?!" He stammered, finally taking the cucumber but not the rubber.

"Nope. I had to do the same thing and Soda probably did too, seeing as how Dad gave us both our talks. You can call it a family tradition if you want. I don't care, but I have to know you can handle it."

Again, another snide look came my way as I caught what I said too late.

"Just put the rubber on." I said, more gruffly, choking on my own embarrassment this time.

He gave me a look of petulance and nearly snatched the small packaged square from my fingers.

"Of all the stupidest, lamest … idiotic things I've ever had to do..."

He ranted just low enough for me to hear, but not really talking to me. I said nothing, just watched as he held the cucumber tightly between his knees, ripped the wrapper off the condom and rolled it over its dark green skin. I was silently surprised he knew to leave a small space at the tip. Once the cucumber was fully wrapped up, he unclenched his knees and held it as if it were a filthy object that he wanted to dispose of.

"Anything else?" He asked icily.

"Now unsheath it."

His look of contempt was deadly. I doubted if, like me, he would ever look at another cucumber again and only think of it as a salad ingredient.

He slid the rubber off, then looked at me, a little less anger in his eyes.

"Good. Now, if you're still a virgin, stay that way. If not, stop having sex. If you won't and find you need the stuff, ask me. I'll make sure you have it, even if I don't like that you'd be using it. Got me?"

He nodded, setting the cucumber down behind him and picked up his Pepsi.

"You know," he said after a moments pause, "that's not really realistic." He had a sudden, suspicious gleam in his eye.

"What do you mean?" I asked as I bagged up the stuff to leave.

"I'm bigger than that."

With a grin, he hopped off the table and headed for the truck, not bothering to look back. That caught me off guard, stopping me dead in my tracks as I stared after him. No frigging way! I thought, doing mental calculations and comparisons.

I frowned, only Ponyboy could leave this conversation giving me a complex.


Calla Lily Rose